We invite you to watch the video above, or read the transcript below, to learn more about Dr. Melanie (Perez) Pellechia and her Mercy Mindset! The interview is conducted by current eighth grade students Daniel R. and Marisa M.
Greg Soltis, Director of Outreach and Religious Education: Welcome to our Mercy Mindset Series. We have the opportunity to get to know Melanie Pellecchia from the Waldron Mercy Class of 1992. With the exception of the old gym uniforms, she hopes that her children can share her experience as a Waldron student nurtured by the care and compassion of their teachers. By reflecting on her life during and after her time at Waldron Mercy Academy with two of our eighth graders, Daniel and Marisa, she shows how a Mercy Mindset has inspired both her profession as a psychologist and her vocation as a mother.
Daniel: Hi Dr. Pellecchia, so as my first question in this conversation I would like to ask what grade you started to attend Waldron in.
Melanie: Sure, so I went to Waldron from fourth to eighth grade. I graduated a long time ago, back in 1992.
Daniel: I started in fifth grade so I guess we’re just a year apart.
Daniel: As a follow up question, I would like to ask, what did you think about the old uniforms that you used to wear?
Melanie: The uniforms have changed a lot. I think you guys have a much better uniform, especially the gym uniform. When I went to Waldron our gym uniform was a dress and it had pleats and had our name embroidered on it. So it was definitely not comfortable and the gym uniform that you have now is much better.
Marisa M., current eighth grader: Speaking of sports, what is your favorite sport that you did, or did you do any sports at Waldron?
Melanie: So I’m not a very athletic person, but I did run track when I was at Waldron. I tried out for the softball team but didn’t make it. My dad still jokes about that today because I had a pink glove. But I did run track.
Daniel: Oh, nice.
Marisa: After Waldron, what high school or colleges did you go to?
Melanie: I went to Central High School in Philadelphia and then I went to St. Joe’s University for my undergrad and then I went to Temple for my masters and for my doctorate.
Daniel: What do you do now for your job?
Melanie: I am an assistant professor in the psychiatry department at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m a psychologist by training. My work is with young children with autism. I work with them and teach them how to communicate, how to play, how to engage with other people. And then I also do research on how to help people who are under resourced and living in under resourced communities get access to high quality treatment.
Daniel: That’s really nice, it’s good that you're helping other people out. Would you recommend that job to anyone?
Melanie: Yeah, I love my job, I love that I get to play with little kids and teach them how to learn skills that are really important for their lives. I also love that the research that I do helps other people who wouldn’t necessarily have access to really good treatment for their children be able to access those treatments.
Marisa: When you attended Waldron, was there any particular teacher or coach who inspired or influenced you to who you are now?
Melanie: I definitely remember all of my teachers at Waldron really fondly but I think Ms. Flynn, who was my sixth grade teacher at the time, definitely stands out in my head for lots of reasons. She taught us how to balance a checkbook which is a really great important skill, I remember that. But I think more importantly why I remember her is that she was always so kind, and she was always so caring, and she treated her students with love and it was a fun place to be in her classroom. I think as a parent now, the reason that I send my own kids to Waldron is because I want them to have teachers who are warm and kind and compassionate, and I think that describes the teachers at Waldron well.
Daniel: Wow, that’s great. So, when you think about outreach and service at Waldron, what is one of your favorite memories?
Melanie: That’s a great question. I don’t have one specific outreach memory but I think certainly the mission of helping others certainly inspired me throughout my life, and my work, and my career. The mission of making sure you are able to help others who are less fortunate is really something that has driven much of my life and my work and I definitely got that from my time at Waldron.
Daniel: Were you able to continue with service after you left?
Melanie: Yeah, so I think I try to embody that both in my work, you know, with helping under resourced people have access to treatments for their kids with autism. I definitely try to model that as a parent and try to help my children learn those values as well. So I hope that I’ve continued it and I plan to.
Marisa: When you went to Waldron, did any of the values still hold true to you?
Melanie: I think the Mercy Mission is certainly something that is really important that you are all learning now and I think that has certainly carried through my work and my life as well.
Daniel: Nice. So in your present work today with autism, how does that align with the Mercy values that were instilled in you at Waldron?
Melanie: The treatments for children with autism are often very expensive. They’re often hard...they’re hard to get for many families, especially families who don’t have a lot of resources. I think it’s really important that all families have access to high quality care and high quality treatment. Autism is something that there are good treatments available and often people don’t know about them so my work in helping implement these kinds of treatments in community settings and partnering with community stakeholders to do that is, I think, hopefully aligned with the Mercy mindset and being able to help others.
Marisa: Do you see yourself continuing to become engaged in opportunities that spread the work of Mercy?
Melanie: I do! I hope so! I certainly plan to keep my job for a long time. I think that I’m in a career that allows me to do that and I’m very thankful to be able to do that.
Daniel: As my last question of this conversation, I would like to ask: what advice would you give current students who attend Waldron right now?
Melanie: That’s a great question. I think that there are so many great opportunities available to you at Waldron that so many other students in other schools don’t have. I think when you’re young and in it it’s hard to be aware of that and realize that, but I do think looking back on it now as an adult and seeing the opportunities that my children have at Waldron, I’m very grateful for that and grateful to be able to provide them with that experience. So I think the advice that I have for students now is to certainly live your days at Waldron with gratitude and to be helpful as much as you can to others and to try your best, because it’s a really great school. Just work hard and you’ll get good places.
Daniel: Thank you, I guess I’ll keep it in mind.
Marisa: Thank you so much for everything. I’m really interested in your profession and it was really moving to me that your job is so powerful and helpful to children.
Melanie: Thanks so much, Marisa, that’s really nice of you to say. It was great talking with you both.
Daniel: Marisa said basically I was going to say, so I guess I’ll just say thank you for this conversation.
Melanie: Thank you, Daniel. It was great to talk with you both. Thanks for inviting me.