Journalism Major will be Student Speaker at UMass Amherst Commencement May 21

AMHERST, Mass. - Litza J. Melendez, of Amherst, a journalism major who has advised and assisted new students on campus for three years, has been selected student speaker for the 130th Commencement of the University of Massachusetts Sun. May 21 at 10:30 a.m. in Warren P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

Melendez is a Dean''s List student at UMass, where she is a member of the ALANAI (African, Latino, Asian, Native American, and International) and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies. A Commonwealth Scholar, she holds a Four-Year Talented Minority Scholarship and was also named a William F. Field Alumni Scholar.

Melendez has been a staff member for the New Students Program since 1997, scheduling and coordinating public relations events, administering math placement tests and tests for international students, and overseeing the design, production and organization of hundreds of signs for the numerous information sessions scheduled during orientation days on campus.

She has also been an academic program assistant in Patterson residence hall, serving as a residential advisor for first-year students and teaching assistant for the course "UMass Unplugged." She has additionally been a volunteer tutor and mentor for international students on campus.

Melendez will talk about the ups and downs of college life, and the lessons learned as this year''s graduates move on to their new lives.

"Ever since I was a freshman," says Melendez, "I would tell people that I wanted to be the student speaker at my graduation, but I never thought I would actually accomplish that goal. Now I''m a little bit nervous."

Melendez was born in Puerto Rico, but grew up and attended school in Amherst. Her family has strong ties to UMass. Both her parents are University alumni: Her mother, Janet Reyes, a teacher at Morgan Elementary School in Holyoke, and her father, Eduardo Melendez, principal of Holyoke Alternative School, received their master''s degrees in education from UMass. Both Litza''s brother and sister are currently graduate students at UMass. Her aunt received a doctorate degree from the University, one cousin received a bachelor''s degree, and two other cousins are currently UMass students.

Melendez was chosen student speaker by a committee of faculty and students.