Melinda Tkacs moved around a lot as a child. She first lived with her father. He then left her with her aunt and uncle in California, and soon after, she went to live with her grandmother. When Melinda entered into high school, she didn’t think many educational opportunities were possible for her. College after graduation seemed at an even larger distance.

As she entered tenth grade, Melinda’s father found the Masonic Children’s Home, where he sent Melinda, as he no longer wanted to care for her. There, Melinda found opportunities and a family she never thought she would have. It didn’t come easy at first, because the home was more structured than where she lived before, and she was 16 years old.

“It was definitely difficult coming that old to another setting that was completely different than what I had ever experienced,” Melinda said.

Melinda lived with seven other girls and two house parents. After beginning school at Elizabethtown Area High School, she found that many of the girls she lived with at the children’s home were in the same classes at school. Because of this, she became good friends with them.

Melinda did well in school and started becoming involved in activities like sports and work. For the first time in her life, educational opportunities like college did not seem so far out of her reach.

Melinda said the structured nature of the children’s home became very helpful to her, allowing her to set attainable goals for herself. While attending high school, Melinda said she had great teachers. Through her experience, she found her passion in education and decided she wanted to attend college for teaching so she could help other children reach their goals, too.

“Sometimes you’re called to things in your life, and I realized that’s something I would be good at,” Melinda said.

Education, sports and work were not the only activities Melinda participated in. She also had a lot of fun with friends while she lived at the children’s home. They went to the beach, swam in the indoor pool and even went on a trip to Disney World.

In addition to the opportunities she received, Melinda said the children’s home helped give her a resiliency that might have been lost had she not gone to live there.

“They provide counseling, they provide structure and they provide support systems so that you can be resilient. You can move forward in your life and know that whatever happened to you is not the end all be all, that you could do something with your life and you are worthy of having opportunities,” she said.

After graduating high school, Melinda achieved her goal of attending college for education, thanks to financial support from donors. Then, she continued her education further to attain her master’s degree and master’s degree plus 30 (30 credits above a master’s degree) in the field.

Now, Melinda is in her 15th year of teaching and teaches seventh grade social studies at Penn Wood Middle School in Darby, Pennsylvania. Her future goals consist of continuing her teaching and involvement in her teacher’s union, Pennsylvania State Education Association.

“I want to keep teaching and helping students reach their full potential like the children’s home has helped me to do,” Melinda said. “I’m completely grateful to them for all my opportunities, because they helped shape me partially into who I am today. Without them, I would not be as successful as I am today. They definitely provided my foundation.”