In the words of Drake, Melonie Wright started from the bottom, but now she’s here. By “here,” we mean soon to be graduating from Emory University School of Law. Next month, Wright will walk down the aisle and receive her law degree, and her story is definitely one that deserves to be told.
Wright grew up in a military family and was the quintessential Army brat. Because of both her parents’ busy schedules, she had to play the role of parent to her siblings. But even before that, everyone who was responsible for making sure Wright received a proper education had already thrown her to the wayside.
When she was a preschool student, her parents were told that she was a delayed learner, and she was placed into special education classes.
“The teachers said I never talked in class, and did not respond the way the other 4-year-olds did at the time. I was too quiet and did not socialize,” Wright tells The Root. “I do remember the day I was moved down to the developmentally delayed preschool classroom. My dad used to walk me to preschool every day, and that day was no different. We went towards a hallway, one that was not where my true classroom was. I asked him, ‘Daddy, where we going?’ He said, ‘To a different classroom.’”
Even then, Wright says, she wasn’t thinking about herself but about how difficult it was for her father to walk her into a classroom he knew she didn’t belong in. Here, Wright explains a few of the obstacles she faced and exactly how she overcame them.
The Root: What were some of the obstacles you experienced in school and life in general?
Melonie Wright: I have a very not beautiful, broken, messed-up past, with some things in my control and some not. However, I believe that God used every single obstacle and challenge for good and, more importantly, his glory.
I began my education in a special education class. I dealt with insecurities throughout my childhood, which ultimately influenced me to make very poor choices in high school and college related to relationships. I ran track in college but eventually stopped running my spring semester of my junior year. A month later, I was pregnant with my daughter.
I took the LSAT [law school aptitude test] while eight months pregnant, and I was so exhausted. I experienced instances of domestic violence, with the relationship with her father ending in a terrible and violent way. Following that incident, I had a two-week period where my daughter and I did not have anywhere to stay and we ended up in a motel. I also dealt with people saying and doing things that were not particularly encouraging. They questioned my decision to attend law school with an infant; they questioned my decision to remain in college, period, up to that.
While in law school, I had literally cents in my account, sometimes a negative balance. I had to spend money meant for books on my daughter’s medical bills when we were denied Medicaid. The summer after my first year, my car was deemed unsafe by the mechanic. I had to ride the bus, but I didn’t have enough money to ride the bus at times. I would literally wake up in the morning and believe that God would meet my needs for the day, and I took Matthew 6:34 to heart. All the while, I was struggling to understand my law courses and to heal from my past.
TR: How do you think those obstacles helped you achieve your goals?
MW: Those challenges are really just the tip of the iceberg. There was literally so much that went on these last three years of my law school career. Once I moved to Atlanta to start law school, I really decided to try God again. I made the decision to take him at his word, and to quit being submitted to him in some parts of my life but not others. I gave my whole life to Christ and decided to lay down my will and ask for his will to be done.
God has shown himself to be faithful and trustworthy. He took a broken woman and made me whole. He redeemed my life and assured me that he still has a beautiful plan for my daughter and I, even though I’ve made poor decisions in my life. He carried me through all my obstacles and used them to grow my faith in him. God has given me grace to be a mother, law student and, one day, lawyer.
TR: Now that you’re about to graduate, what do you have to say to your naysayers?
MW: “Naysayers” is a tough thing to say. I really believe people only speak what’s inside of them—a person will say hurtful things because they are hurting on the inside. I know I was guilty of that prior to getting to know Christ for real. For that, I just pray they encounter God and experience his love for themselves.
TR: What words of encouragement do you have for others who’ve faced setbacks?
MW: I would say give your life to Christ. He will mend your broken heart and give you peace even in the ugliest of situations. Accepting him means you believe his plans are much better than yours. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I applied to law schools. I pretty much applied to schools that waived the application fee, since I didn’t have enough to pay for those fees.
It was tough, but just because something is tough doesn’t mean God is not there. God has shown me that in spite of everything, he still wanted me. He still values me. He just wanted me to come back to him. So if you have kids and you’re alone, life is not over. Get up and go after God. He still has a plan for you and he will use your story!
TR: What do you plan to do after graduation?
MW: I am going to take the bar and then I will work as a litigation associate at a big law firm! I also plan on walking my daughter to her first preschool class later this fall.
Melonie Wright, just another spectacular member of the Class of 2016.