Fearless: Melissa Rich

Consistently striving to take what she learns in the classroom and apply it to her life, whether in terms of her interest in Native American issues or her passion for animals and desire to go to veterinary school, Melissa Rich ’14 serves her community humbly, respectfully, and with the intent to educate those around her. 

Melissa would say that her passions are not typical of a social justice advocate, especially when it comes to her love of animals, but a desire to be a voice for the voiceless is absolutely and to fight injustice is evident in all her activities. Melissa has been involved in the Pre-Vet club on campus for the past three years and now serves as its president, teaching other students about the different sides of animal rights and welfare issues, volunteering at the local SPCA, and organizing different events.

Off campus, Melissa works on a community-supported farm in Westminster, Maryland where she helps to sustainably care for all the animals. “I’m actually rather passionate about sustainable farming as well as CSAs now” says Melissa. “I also became a liaison between the farm and the local food pantry in my town. If there are too many eggs or there are some that are too small to sell, I deliver them to the food pantry.”

But Melissa’s passions are not only limited to sustainable agriculture and animal welfare. During her time here at Gettysburg, Melissa has developed a new interest in Native American history and cultures after taking two courses with Dr. Sellers. “The things that we read in her classes,” says Melissa “were the kinds of things that make you restless—and I started seeing concepts and ideas we had talked about in class everywhere. The injustice of it was constantly nibbling at my mind.”

Gael and I at Forgotten Treasures

This incessant curiosity about the Native American experience ultimately led her to apply to be a project leader for the CPS Immersion Project going to Tennessee this March to learn more about the Snowbird Cherokee. “After being selected for the position, I was a little nervous. I mean, I’m certainly no expert on Native American studies; taking two classes in it just barely brushes the surface,” says Melissa. “But in one of the classes I had with Dr. Sellers, she said to us, ‘You’ve gone through my class and read and learned these things, so now you’re an ally of the First Nations People. You have the opportunity to step up and be a voice.’”

And it is that call to act on the knowledge she now possesses that has propelled Melisa to lead an Immersion Project. “I’m not doing this because I’m an expert, I’m doing it because now I can help other students to at least gain a little more knowledge on the subject, and be able to approach our visit to the Snowbird with respect and appreciation.”

“There needs to be more awareness in how to approach Native American communities with respect for their histories and cultures, especially in terms of understanding what actually happens and what actually happened. This past Wednesday, for example, was the anniversary of the Trail of Tears. But did you hear anything about it? No. It received no recognition and passed by silently. It’s in situations like that that people don’t even see the underlying current of ignored racism. And that’s not okay.”

Melissa has fearlessly used her knowledge and passions to be the voice for those who have none, to stand up for what she knows is right whether in terms of sustainable agriculture, animal welfare, or Native American rights. She plans on applying to veterinary school for post-graduation, but not before trying to get a group of students next semester to try and change the mascot of Gettysburg Area High School: a Native American warrior.

Kathryn Bucolo’14
Fearless Friday Coordinator