LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Melanie Lee

Position: Registrar
School: Alabama School of Fine Arts
School District: Alabama School of Fine Arts
City, State: Birmingham, AL

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Melanie Lee was nominated by a colleague, Bradford Hill.

In many ways, Ms. Lee brought her school into the twenty-first century. Yet, in so many other ways, she embodies what is essential, immeasurable, and timeless about the transformative power adults can have in children’s lives. Although she does not inhabit a classroom, keep hours in a counselor’s office, or occupy the authority of an administrator, Ms. Lee is the single greatest influence on students’ lives at the Alabama School of Fine Arts.

Since her school is a public, but highly selective fine arts specialty school, many children and parents are intimidated by the application process. Ms. Lee has held thousands of hands and guided many children who desperately need to be in a school like hers. Going well beyond her job description, she works with social workers, immigration officials, foundation officers, struggling single moms, and so many others to find ways to create paths for students to get into the school and succeed there. 

Out of her own pockets, Ms. Lee has rescued children from group homes for troubled teens who are living in cells, arranged for students living in squalor to find means to reside in school dormitory rooms, transported students to buy them school supplies, health and hygiene products, clothes, meals, treats, refrigerators for dorm rooms, linens, towels, lamps, and more. She will often purchase the work of visual arts students to hang in her office or home because she knows they continue to need financial assistance.  She has coordinated transfers for students displaced from their home schools by natural disasters, collaborated with community resources to get homeless students and families into improved living situations, and facilitated immigration paperwork for families who otherwise would abandon efforts due to language barriers or insufficient means. 

Ms. Lee has also helped raise additional funding for students and make the entire school community aware of children in need.  By always being the best version of herself, she inspires the same in others.

On an even deeper level, Ms. Lee illuminates the lives of students who beat a path to her office to be with her.  All students have their own extraordinary stories in life that they rarely get a chance to share, or when they do, they may not feel at ease enough to tell them. One of Ms. Lee's greatest roles is reminiscient of what the poet Leonard Cohen wrote, "'There is a crack in everything, and that’s how the light gets in." 

Ms. Lee takes many students under her wing because they need a mother figure in their lives, whether they're students without a parent, students who may be living far away from family, or those who need counsel on dealing with social issues. She provides a safe space for students to reveal things they have not found the courage tell anyone else, and a quiet place for students to be until they can compose themselves themselves and return to class. Sometimes, students just need candy from her candy dish and to be reminded that she—like the candy dish—will always be there for them when they need her most. 

Ms. Lee has a rare personality that somehow communicates to everyone that she is someone they can safely open up to.  So often, educators cannot help students and their families because they are unaware of their needs. Ms. Lee is the person students confide these needs to at Alabama School of Fine Arts. Although she already works in the curriculum office as registrar, she embodies her school’s hidden curriculum, which is so beneficial to students, faculty and stakeholders and truly defines the school culture and atmosphere. 

So many students will choose to use their “free period” to check in with her and sit down for long conversations, the sort that students rarely participate in throughout their formal education. In these impromptu sessions, students share their life stories, their family’s cultures, their dreams, and their fears. They exchange their favorite music with Ms. Lee, bring her tokens of their love and appreciation, hang out, and listen to her stories about school history, her life, and her own children and grandchildren.

"They need her as their moral compass for so many life decisions that they face daily.  This is the curriculum that never shows up on the very transcripts she so meticulously works on for the students," Hill said. "It is in her office that so many values, norms and traditions are nurtured, transmitted and instilled."

Ms. Lee serves the adults at her school just as much as the students.  She is often a moral compass for faculty, staff and administrators.  Because she is an encyclopedia of the school’s history and progress, her colleagues frequently need her guidance and understanding on the most important decisions. Similarly, because her opinion, insight, and ethical aptitude is so respected and admired, employees regularly turn to her to calibrate what the right path is for many unchartered challenges and difficult decisions regarding student, institutional, and personal issues. 

"It is difficult to understand how Ms. Lee has any time to impact students’ and employees’ lives so profoundly because she is always so busy keeping the school functioning like a well-oiled machine and evolving school events toward constant improvement. When she first came to work here in the mid-1990s, her presence and ingenuity demanded that our school “grow up” and move into the twenty-first century," Hill said. "She created the system for how we do our daunting applications/auditions process. Today, it doesn't seem daunting at all because of her organizational and creative skills." 

The audition process involves massive orchestration all over campus and in every venue. Ms. Lee organizes all the logistics, coordinates the volunteers, prepares all the materials, designs multiple schedules, facilitates multiple parent panels, and somehow has created an efficient, thorough system. She has also managed the school's transition to all digital platforms for applications and auditions, found numerous cost-saving methods, and designed sleek informational packets for all guests and applicants.  Ms. Lee created the format for her school’s first true Open House events, which have gone from being a mere opportunity to pick up a flyer with school information, to a bright, cheerful, colorful event that prominently features her school performers and ambassadors. This new set up has drawn thousands of visitors and prospective applicants over the years. Ms. Lee also implemented a new student orientation to ensure students feel at home and a part of something larger, safe and secure as they transition to a new, challenging school.

"We pride ourselves on being less a school and more a family. It is Ms. Lee who is most responsible for cultivating and nurturing that feeling into a constant reality," Hill said.

Ms. Lee is the first person so many alumni think of when they reflect on what the Alabama School of Fine Arts means to them. They all came to school wanting to be inspired to be what they knew they could be. They might be published poets in Chicago, directors of art foundations in New York, NASA scientists in Baltimore, freelance writers in New Orleans, doctors in Boston, ordained priests at The Vatican, or doctoral candidates at Juilliard. What they all share in common is the influence of Ms. Lee.

Comments (105)

Rachel Lockhart Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is an extremely hardworking woman. Between school schedules and a million questions, Ms.Lee goes above and beyond to make sure everything is organized and running smoothly. Her positive and warm energy has made me feel welcomed at ASFA every year and I think this award will be well-deserved for such a strong, kind, diligent woman.

Elisabeth Rohlfs-Hill Posted over a year ago

I worked with Melanie for years, and she was the shoulder and the ear for the entire faculty.

Rebecca Rutsky Posted over a year ago

Although I've worked at the Alabama School of Fine Arts long enough now to be a veteran myself, Melanie Lee is the person everyone turns to. She is the expert on the Byzantine student data system and knows all the school policies and procedures, so whenever a faculty member is at a loss, we call Melanie. More important than her technical or procedural knowledge, though, is her ability to know all of the students and staff personally. She is the embodiment of the adage: Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Because of Melanie Lee, every ASFA student knows that they have an ally who truly understands and advocates for their best interest, and her coworkers know that we have a colleague who is both a consummate professional and a loyal friend.

Susan Lagrone Posted over a year ago

I am a faculty member at the School of Fine Arts and Melanie has been a bulwark never failing! Melanie Lee is an inspiration to all us at ASFA. No matter what the crisis Melanie is always willing to give her time and energy to helping me sort it out. She works many extra hours to ensure the students, faculty and administration have everything organized and running smoothly. No matter what else is happening around her, Melanie greets me with a smile every time I walk into her office. Even when she was dealing with sickness, Melanie kept a tight ship. Melanie Lee is my role model as an employee and a mom and wife and a woman! She is most deserving of this award!

Paul Hill Posted over a year ago

Melanie Lee is a selfless and tireless advocate for students and teachers who brightens the lives of the many families she touches on a daily basis. She is the one person who connects with everyone at ASFA, and she is the first person I look for when I return to visit. I cannot believe that there is a more deserving candidate for this recognition than Melanie Lee. I recommend her highly and without reservation.

Anna Butcher Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is the type of person that makes you smile even when you're just thinking about her. Every student at ASFA has had their school experience shaped in a way past creating schedules. My experiences with her began when I auditioned and didn't send my portfolio in on time. She still accepted it and I'm in the school because of her kindness. She also helped ease the many fears, and answer the numerous questions, my dad had before I started going to school here. She knows every name of every student and can suggest classes she thinks you'll love and talk to you about anything. She is a spring of joy that nourishes every part of our school. Without Ms. Lee ASFA would not be the place of growth, creativity, and opportunity that it is now.

Clarisse Nacilla Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is a wonderful person that shares kindness and happiness throughout ASFA! On my first day at ASFA, she helped me figure out my schedule and where to go, clearing up any confusion that arose. She is always lighting up the day, even when the skies are grey and gloomy. She always makes time to help people in need and is very supportive! Whenever we perform, she's there watching and encouraging us to do our best. She makes time out of her day to go out and support us. If we didn't have her, we'd all be a mess. She's a major part of our ASFA family, and without her, a bunch of us would be lost. I hold a lot of love for Ms. Lee and believe that she absolutely deserves this award!

Jania Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is such a helpful person at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She has helped me tremendously with things that were in her field and were not in her field. Every time that I do come to her, she has a smile on her face. She is such a big part of the school and deserves this award. She is also very patient and never complains!

Will Cottrell Posted over a year ago

Melanie Lee is a blessing to students. When I auditioned for the school, I thought that I had everything I needed to apply. The night before, I saw that I was missing recommendation letters, transcripts, personal essays, and everything but my audition tape. Ms. Lee was incredibly kind and understanding as she helped me complete my application and accepted everything even after the deadline just to help me, a student she had never met. Without her assistance, I would not be at the school nor would I have as many opportunities as I currently do.

Jesi Thomas Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is a wonderful woman who helps out in every way she can. ASFA would be disorganized without her.

Madaha Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee truly is one of the greatest people you could ever meet! As so many have said, she is very helpful to new students and has made a real difference in our lives. She is very organized and always manages to get the job done!

Beau Allen Posted over a year ago

She brightens up any day with just her smile and truly understands what it means to be both an educator and an educator at ASFA. We have a very diverse group of personalities in the student body and faculty, and Melanie brings the right touch of warmth and grace in all of her interactions with each of us. Her belief in the mission of this school and the way with which she displays that belief every day makes her one of Alabama's greatest supporters of the artistic spirit.

Lauren Powell Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is always so kind and patient with all of her students, whether they're first years or fifth years! She has helped me with everything from schedules and lockers to ordering my robes and cords for graduation. Ms. Lee has truly been a blessing throughout my time at ASFA, and I'll miss her dearly when I leave!

Esme Hill Posted over a year ago

I have known Ms. Melanie Lee for a long time and she is amazing. She is such a hard worker, constantly helping students with whatever they need, and she is so incredibly sweet. She never hesitates to help us crazy students with schedule changes, she answers our questions, and she is just a great person to talk to. Ms. Lee is honestly a hero and ASFA is extremely lucky to have her. She has such positive energy and that goes a long way! Her office is also awesome and super inviting. Thank you for all you do for us every day, Ms. Lee! You deserve the world!

Anonymous Posted over a year ago

Melanie is an all around amazing person and i am glad to have her work at my school.

Alexandra Posted over a year ago

Melanie has helped ASFA grow in so many ways! She is always there to look after everyone in the school, and help out as much as possible. When I am having a stressful day she will always cheer it up and have a wonderful conversation with you. Melanie works hard, and definitely deserves an award for her winning personality and hard work. ASFA would not be the same without her!

Jesi Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is a wonderful, helpful, generous person. She does a lot for us at the school and doesn't get annoyed at us when we ask for help with things. She handles are schedules and has to deal with people emailing her over the summer requesting changes, and has helped me personally with several random tasks. This award would be perfect for her to show how much she helps out with our day to day life. ASFA would be so disorganized without her.

Stacey Blankenship Posted over a year ago

She is an amazing person who handles a tough job with grace and ease. She helps employees and students with all their transitions. Whether it is the entrance examinations, transcripts or graduation. SHe is the heart of our school.

Karen Kennedy Posted over a year ago

When I was a new employee here at ASFA a few years ago, Melanie is the one who walked me around the entire school, showing me classrooms, introducing me to faculty, while telling me all about ASFA, as if it were her beloved family, which it most certainly is. Melanie puts her heart in all she does, and as busy and hectic as her work and life are, she is always pleasant and friendly, and eager to help and contribute. She is truly extraordinary in how she gets to know our students, and she remembers almost everyone, if not everyone, who has come through our doors. She always takes the time to help students and staff alike, and never seems to run out of energy or her sense of humor.

Rachael Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Lee is amazing! She is always there to help those who need her, and ASFA couldn't run without her.

teri weksler Posted over a year ago

Melanie saves my life at ASFA all the time. She is extremely generous with her time, and never loses patience.

Ella Rosenthal Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is always there to help. She has made the process of choosing classes for the year so easy and is always open to make changes with your schedule if needed!

Lauryn-Elizabeth Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is one of the kindest adults at school. She is always around to help, and never is upset at students when they come to her with tedious problems. She always leaves candy out for kids and has a smile on her face.

Katherine Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is an amazing woman! She's always been so helpful to new students, especially when it comes to figuring out how to get around the school or working out the kinks in a confusing schedule. She is honestly bursting with energy- no matter how much she has to do she is always willing to set aside some of her attention to talk and listen to people when they need her. She is patient, kind, and warm, and we love her so much here at ASFA!

Eliza Maddox Posted over a year ago

The first day of a new school year is extremely hectic and Ms. Lee is always there to help everyone with schedules. She gives you suggestions on what would be best for your academics and interests so that you will have a prosperous year. She takes the time to really help with any scheduling issues and doesn't just speedily type something in and send you on your way. There is no way we would be able to function if she wasn't there to help us with our problems and questions. I am thankful for her patience with us and her dedication to helping us. Ms. Lee influences all of the students and she is truly deserving of this award.

Dima Gambino Posted over a year ago

Melanie Lee is quite an important person at ASFA. She is so thoughtful and generous. I am so appreciative of everything she does, and I'm sure that everyone else is as well. I haven't even been at ASFA for a full year and I can already see that she has made an impact on several people's life. She inspires so many people, including me. Someone with such a kind heart and a wonderful personality deserves this award, and Ms. Lee is perfect for this award.

Sarah Avington Posted over a year ago

She has always been there to help when I am in need.

TJ Beitelman Posted over a year ago

Melanie is the heart and soul of a school that has a tremendous amount of heart and soul. I think one important way to measure the value of a colleague is to think about how hard it would be to get along without them. By that measure, there's no more valuable colleague at our school: I'm not sure how we will get along without her. Lucky for us, she's not planning on retiring anytime soon. Also lucky for us, Melanie knows that the truest measure of someone's value is how long their influence and legacy will last, even when they're gone, and she knows it's not what you do, it's how you do it. Melanie's taught all of us at ASFA that being kind is important, that problems get solved better and quicker by people who can't be bothered to take any credit, and that "work" is never tedious to anyone who approaches all the tasks of every day with unchecked, open-hearted love. There is no one more deserving of this (and ANY) award.

Emma Posted over a year ago

I agree with everything that has been said about Ms. Lee in the essay and in the comments. I haven't met someone as genuinely kind and patient as her in a long time. She smiles at me every single time I see her in the hallways, and it really warms my heart. She works so hard and is so patient. I remember at the beginning of the year, my schedule was messed up, like some of my other classmates. I gave it to her to fix, and she got it done so quickly and without any negativity. Even though students don't see her as often as other teachers, she is just as important. She truly is a crucial part of ASFA, and we wouldn't know what to do without her! Thank you for everything, Ms. Lee!

Katherine Posted over a year ago

Ms.Lee is the best! She is always so helpful and kind whenever we need her! Plus, she always has a smile on her face. :)

Rosalie Anthony Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is such an inspiration and is always so helpful. She is patient with the student's scheduling and when I went to order my cap and gown the other day she was so patient even though she may have had all fifty-two students at her door asking the same question. She accepts people for who they are and is a really great listener.

Natalie Brasher Posted over a year ago

Every time I see Ms. Lee my day becomes three times brighter. She is so considerate and has the warmest heart I've ever seen. She always stops to chat even when she seems incredibly busy, and she is always smiling. I'm a student in the Music Department at ASFA and I can say that she definitely has an impact on the Music Department as a whole each and every day. Her office is located on the Music Hall so the music kids get the privilege to see her all the time. She always has candy for any student that decides to come visit her. She attends all of our performances, even our recitals, and is always showing her support for us whether through compliments or just being present with her busy schedule. She's the one that organizes the class schedules for the students, and she always makes sure that where you are is a good fit for you. She really cares about each student and she always wants what is best for us, and for us to have the best experience we possibly can while we are at ASFA. I could go on forever about all of the other things Ms. Lee does for us but all of this is from my personal experience with her. She is the most deserving of the Life Changer Award because she is changing lives everyday.

Katherine Miles Posted over a year ago

I think she is an amazing choice for this award. She was a great help to me in my transition to ASFA. I have never seen her be anything but kind to people. I She helps people everyday and never complains. Thank you for allowing me to put my opinion out there!!!

Emily Willford Posted over a year ago

When I was first applying for ASFA, I had a competition on the same day as my audition. I didn’t want to miss out on the competition, but I also really wanted to have the chance to attend ASFA. Rather than undergoing the stressful process of having to reschedule things and maybe even drop one, however, Ms. Lee took it upon herself to give us a separate date that I could audition, and was helpful and friendly throughout the entire process. Without her, I might have given up on ASFA and never attended in the first place, which I think would have certainly been a loss. I think it’s obvious when school staff really care about their job and the students at their school, and Ms. Lee clearly does care very deeply. For me, I think she perfectly fits the definition of a life changer.

Maisha Iqbal Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is one of the most important people in my high school career. She is completely astounding with how she manages to do so much work for this school and still manage to have such a wide spread social life. Without her, it would have been impossible for me to come to this school with my financial background. She was able to alleviate my parents’ fears very quickly which is a tremendously big task to do. I’m still astonished that she was able to do it because I still haven’t. She is always so composed and kind whether it’s in front of a thousand students or just one and that’s incredibly brave. I’ve just never met someone who could handle what she does and still have an amazing personality but I’m glad I have.

McGuire Price Posted over a year ago

Whenever I see Ms.Lee in the hallways at ASFA she always makes me smile. She is always full of happiness and positivity which makes the days at ASFA even better! She is such a vital component to the ASFA faculty and I am so thankful that we have her. I feel that she doesn't come to ASFA just because it is her job, but she come because she genuinely cares and wants to help us be the best people we can be. I appreciate her so dearly and think she is most deserving of this award!

Dawson Martin Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Lee has, as greatly stated in her nomination essay, had a profound effect on the lives of current and past students of ASFA. She does, in fact, keep the school running like a "well-oiled machine". With her years of experience in the school, she able provide expert advice to parents of new students and prospective students. As the mother figure of ASFA, Mrs. Lee greatly deserves recognition for her outstanding work not only in the community but in the lives of those she works daily. I, myself, a student of ASFA and a child taken under her wind can greatly vouch for her outstanding character. We love you, Mrs. Lee!

Sid Singh Posted over a year ago

I don't know how ASFA could possibly function without Ms. Lee. Throughout all 3 of my years at ASFA so far, she has helped me a countless amount of times whether it pertained to general questions, schedule changes, or even some network issues. I've never seen anyone with a larger range of skill sets that is so willing to help others at a moment's notice. Being a life changer is simply part of her daily routine.

Cheroce Cornner Posted over a year ago

I love Ms. Lee. She is so loving and kind. ASFA is so lucky to have you!!!

Igrainne Hill Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is the most amazing person ever. She is always there when you need her, smiling and happy. She helps you find your way in troubling situations, and helps you come out of them. Ms. Lee is what I think of when I hear the phrase, "the ASFA family." She is a part of everyone's lives and is such a positive influence. Ms. Lee most definitely should win this award for all of her hard and inspiring work.

DeMya Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Lee has been so helpful this year to me as a senior! She took time out of her busy schedule to assist me in filling out the graduation packet and deciding what I would like to have included! Thank you so much!

etta Posted over a year ago

ms. melanie is so amazing !!!!!!!! every day she is such an inspiration so so many people at the special school !!!!!! we love her !!!!!

Linda Fisher Posted over a year ago

Melanie Lee is one of the most amazing people I have ever known. Over the many years that she has been at ASFA, she has had an enormous impact on us all, as can be seen from the comments posted here. She set the highest standard for us as employees and is the best friend anyone could ever have. For what she has accomplished at our school for the ASFA family, she is most deserving of this life changer award.

Rita Meikson Posted over a year ago

All 3 of my children and my 2 nieces were, and one still is, ASFA students. We know Ms. Lee since 1997, and we love her! Any time I come to school and meet her I feel at home. She is so attentive, kind, compassionate, helpful and friendly. She always gives good advise, helps to solve any problems,and finds nice words for you. Even when she is very busy, she will always stop to give you some of her attention, to show how important your kids, your family is for ASFA. We love Ms. Lee!

Diane Harrison Posted over a year ago

The very special community at the Alabama School of Fine Arts could not exist without Melanie Lee. Melanie embodies the inclusive and impassioned culture of learning at ASFA. As a past parent of three students at the school, Melanie has shown herself to be the most dedicated, competent, encouraging, and supportive person I have ever encountered. She truly cares for and champions each and every one of the students at ASFA, as if they were her own.

Laura Doss Posted over a year ago

Melanie Lee is someone who takes every aspect of her work seriously. Serving at ASFA is far more than a job to her. She knows the name and hometown of every student and takes the time to make personal connections with each family. She is a supportive colleague, and is often quietly making a difference. She is involved in almost every part of the school's life and always has her finger on the pulse of the school. The students love her, and the faculty and staff love her. She is the example of one who works every day as if what she does matters, and is an inspiration to those who work alongside her. She is a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a cancer survivor, a friend. She is certainly a life changer.

Georgia Dussich Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Lee is such a light in each of my days at ASFA. She is always smiling and welcoming to everyone and her kindness overflows. This is a quality that is rare in the world we live in today. We share music, recipes, and thoughts about what is happening in the world (as well as what is happening with her wonderfully sassy grandkids). Mrs. Lee is someone I aspire to be like and she most definitely deserves this award.

Vicky Abernathy Posted over a year ago

I live in fear that my dear friend and colleague, Melanie Lee, will decide to retire. I think that the entire school does. I have no idea what ASFA would do without her. If there’s a question, Melanie can answer it; if there’s a need, Melanie will fill it; and if there’s an emergency, Melanie will handle it. And she does it all with a kind smile, an imperturbable calm, and a sincere love for her students, colleagues, and school. I rely on her for far more than her job description requires. So does everyone else. Years ago, the school’s director and I were at a local sandwich shop and I introduced him to the owner. She said that she had always wondered who ran the school and he replied, “Oh, that would be Melanie Lee. I’m just the director.”

Rachel Reinhart Posted over a year ago

Besides just being a friendly, relentlessly positive and helpful colleague and friend, Melanie Lee is truly exceptional in that she always goes the extra mile for people in need. Every student who has come to this school during her employment, most parents, and every single employee realizes that Melanie is a gifted and caring problem-solver. If she herself cannot address your needs, she can figure out who can, and will usually volunteer to do the legwork to connect you. Melanie is resourceful, thoughtful, and tireless, with her work, her family, and her community. She never seeks - but always deserves - thanks and appreciation for her efforts to benefit people in her orbit. Her help, to so many people, has been so impactful that simply one "way she changed my life" would sound strange. Melanie would not see herself as being in the "life changer" business; she's in the "opportunity" business: she helps create and provide opportunities for people, every single day. Opportunities change lives, and that's how she changes ours, at the Alabama School of Fine Arts.

Iris Rinke-Hammer Posted over a year ago

When you enter Melanie’s office you are surrounded by colors both bright and delicate, art objects arranged with such care and such a sense for detail few museums could replicate, and by the peaceful and loving vibrations that emanate from Melanie. I have witnessed Melanie in meetings with as many as 80 students or more talking about registration, gently answering everyone’s questions, never losing her kind composure, even if the same questions were asked repeatedly or if they addressed what she had just explained. She is truly remarkable. (And when I grow up I would like to be like her.)

Will Marble Posted over a year ago

As Health and Wellness coordinator I am thankful that what Melanie does on a daily basis helps to support the overall health and wellness of those around her and, consequently, the health of the entire school.

Jameson Ware Posted over a year ago

I think Melanie Lee is great. As a new teacher, she has made me feel welcomed and supported in the school.

jamie kilgore Posted over a year ago

I knew Melanie, first, as a student at ASFA. She helped us navigate ASFA life. Always genuine, always nurturing. I knew then she was special. Fast forward to now -she is a colleague. My respect for her grows more and more every year. I now have the advantage of seeing all that she does behind the scenes. Its truly amazing, what she does for our students, both individually and as a whole...and, she does it with incredible humility and grace. She IS a Life Changer - every day, every year.

Robert Janssen Posted over a year ago

I couldn't agree more with everything that has been written about Melanie Lee. When you take note of the variety of people writing comments about Melanie you truly see that she has touched so many people. There are comments here by colleagues, teachers, administrators, board members, students and parents from the present to the past, many of whom have long since left ASFA. Yet they were so touched by Melanie that even years after leaving they take the time to write a comment. One of the things I admire the most about Melanie is that even after many years in her very challenging position she remains friendly, open and committed to helping students not only get accepted to ASFA but to continue to do well and succeed during their time here. There is almost never a time when I walk past her door and don't see a student, parent or teacher speaking with her and getting her support, words of wisdom or assistance. Even in the most difficult of times Melanie has been there for all of us.

Lucy DeSa Posted over a year ago

Melanie always has a smile and a kind word for everyone. We couldn't do without her here at the Alabama School of Fine Arts!

Stuart Flynn Posted over a year ago

For many years as a teacher and administrator at ASFA, I have benefited, time and time again, from Melanie's wisdom, kindness, and knowledge. Every organization, if its lucky, has someone on staff who knows all the organizational details, all the pertinent information, and who is willing to always take time to offer guidance or simply listen attentively and compassionately. Melanie Lee is that person at ASFA. She routinely puts others' interests ahead of her own, and no one in the building does more for more people, students and adults alike. I don't know what we'd do without her.

Hungsin Chin Posted over a year ago

Ms. Melanie Lee has changed and positively influenced many life at the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA), both students and adults.. Whenever I have doubts about something related to school, we would talk and through our conversation, she would present to me another viewpoint that I may not have seen. This usually will make me feel better about what & which decision I would need to make. When my oldest son graduated from the Math & Science program at ASFA, I did not know what to give him as a memorable graduation gift. Ms Lee suggested a photo album which highlighted his various milestones of accomplishments from birth to high school graduation. This photo album was specially made by Ms. Lee's daughter. Till this day, still has that photo album in his collection of memorabilia in his house as I saw it when I visited him. Ms. Lee, thank you for being you and I can't think of anyone more deserving of this award.

Carol Yarbrough Posted over a year ago

Melanie Lee is one of the most genuinely kind people I have ever met. She consistently goes out of her way to make sure that every child gets the best possible class schedule for their individual needs, and that is no small task. As a teacher at ASFA, I have always been able to go to Ms. Lee with any problem I have had and she would take care of it. Melanie Lee is definitely deserving of the Life Changer award. She has changed the lives of countless children.

Jason Slatton Posted over a year ago

Melanie, consistently, is a real and present "light" at ASFA, and epitomizes our sense of community, family and empathy. This nomination is absolutely earned and well-deserved. Honestly, we couldn't "do" this place without her.

Lucy Smith Posted over a year ago

Melanie was the first person I met when I came to ASFA. The list of people whose lives she has touched just boggles my mind. Melanie knows every parent and student by name for the 17+ years I have worked here. We never go ANYWHERE together that we don't run into someone she knows - and she ALWAYS calls them by name. I cannot think of another person who makes someone feel as comfortable and loved as Melanie does. She is always there to jump in to help when help is needed. She has even taken students, who were here from out of the country, to her home for Christmas break. Melanie is loved by SO MANY students, former students, parents, former parents, faculty, staff, etc.. Melanie Lee IS ASFA.

Julie Miller Posted over a year ago

I am a relatively new employee at ASFA, and Melanie has made me feel comfortable and accepted since day one. She is always willing to lend a hand and will take the time to help even when her plate is overflowing. She has told me many stories about past students and the history of ASFA and is the first to offer encouragement and support to current students and faculty/staff. She is very deserving of this honor.

Linda Wenndt Posted over a year ago

Melanie Lee, despite her extremely busy schedule, always has time to offer an encouraging word and ask about you, your family, and your classes. She will stop what she is doing to have a conversation and make sure you are OK. She means a lot to the students but she also means a lot to the adults working at this school. In my opinion, recognition for her kindness and contributions is well overdue.

Annemarie Gray Posted over a year ago

As a teacher at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, it has been my pleasure to work with Melanie Lee. She is an inspiration to all who know her. She works with indefatigable energy, even during a recent illness. She always has a positive attitude, and is supportive of all around her. Students and faculty rely on her and love her.

Ashley Jones Posted over a year ago

Melanie is truly one of the hardest working people I've ever met--and, on top of all her hard work, she is so very kind and welcoming. Even when I'm just popping in during a busy day to drop of yet another form to get signed, she always--always-- takes the time to ask how I'm doing or to strike up a conversation, and these moments really help me take a breath, slow down, appreciate the fact that I'm alive and at this wonderful school, surrounded by people like her. She deserves this award and so much more!

Amanda Reyes Posted over a year ago

My mom, Melanie Lee, truly deserves this award. She is one of the most giving, patient, and loving people that you will ever meet. I told her when I was little that I wanted to be a mom just like her and that is exactly what I strive to be with my own children everyday. She loves the kids at the Alabama School of Fine Arts as if they were her own. She shares stories with me about their lives and accomplishments everyday & takes such pride in everything that they do. I went with her to take a student shopping for clothes after they lost everything during hurricane Katrina. We had an international student join our family for Christmas one year so that they would not spend the holiday alone. I am very lucky to have a mom like her!!!

Dr. Michael Meeks Posted over a year ago

As Exec. Director of this amazing institution, volumes of communications arrive daily with offers of every sort. As soon as I read about the LifeChanger of the Year award program, not only did it grab my attention, but I knew that we must nominate Melanie Lee. BUT it was her close colleague and friend, Brad Hill, who wrote the amazing and persuasive nomination letter that so eloquently annotated and summed up the remarkable contributions Ms. Melanie makes in the lives of everyone she encounters. Leaders in every similar institution wrestle over how to prepare for eventual ascension plans for their employees. IF Melanie Lee ever were to leave ASFA, we would need at least a trinity of gifted individuals to replace her: someone with endless energy, unwavering concern for others first, and a true, boundless love for students and their success in every stage of life.

James L. Noles, Jr. Posted over a year ago

I am the chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Alabama School of Fine Arts but, much more relevantly, I am currently teaching an elective course to a select group of students in the classroom next door to Ms. Lee's office. I have, therefore, been able to witness first-hand just how Ms. Lee has been and is indeed a "life changer." Although she is technically the Registrar, she has clearly embraced far more than simply what her job description requires. Rather, she is a de facto guidance counselor and surrogate big sister/aunt/mom/grandmother to all of our students at one point or another. As I pass her office, I usually see a student in there seeking -- and receiving -- counsel. Sometimes the counsel is not what the student wants to hear but it is always sincere, caring, and thoughtful counsel.

Jaronda Little Posted over a year ago

There was no exaggeration when Mr. Hill, who nominated Mrs. Lee for this fitting award, explained the type ofEvery story resonates with our students, faculty, staff and parents. As Mrs. Lee's colleague, I've always admired the personal attention she gives every prospective student and especially their families. Who wouldn't want to attend our school after meeting a woman who has taken so much time out of busy schedule and made them feel like we'd love to have them join "the ASFA family." Mrs. Lee is not just like that with prospective students and their families, but she also manages to keep six busy department chairs up to date on administrative issues and helps plan our school calendar of events at least eight months or more in advance of the next school year. So yes, Mrs. Lee is the angel students and staff are glad to encounter in time of need and the superwoman so many of us who work alongside her daily can attest to have observed. What one thing one might wonder that this woman of excellence can't do? She can't turn her back when she sees someone in need, and she can't leave important matters undone. Congratulations on a well-deserved nomination Mrs. Melanie Lee.

Daniela Febres-Cordero Posted over a year ago

As a current Medical Student in Boston, Ms.Lee was a vital component of my success at the Alabama School of Fine Arts from the very start and has continued to provide support many years after. She was my second mom throughout all of high-school while my own lived in another country. I spent endless hours in Ms. Lee's office talking about classes, family, and dreams. Every sentence in the statement was a reality I experienced from Ms.Lee during my time in ASFA as a student. She is the most deserving person I know for this award.

Rachel Boyd Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is not only one of the hardest working women I know, but also one of the most kind and most endearing. She works tirelessly to keep ASFA running smoothly while keeping track of hundreds of students, yet somehow finds the time to be an amazing person and wonderful conversationalist. She is a beacon of positivity and wisdom and a genuinely lovely person to spend time with. She is the go-to person for a myriad of situations and a constant comfort in the lives of the students. I love her so much. She is always there for me when I need her, whether it is a dumb email question or a shoulder to cry on. She is a blessing and we are lucky to have her

Emily Childers Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Lee worked at my elementary school and remembered me and my mom by name when I found ASFA years later. I'll never forget that special feeling when we were again acquainted! She truly goes above and beyond for students. ASFA is blessed to have her!

Jennie Lee Goolsby Posted over a year ago

One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou, "When people show you who they are, believe them." Our precious Mimi demonstrates loyalty, devotion and unconditional love in her everyday actions. She embraces people with her whole heart and makes them feel like the most important person in the room. She has taught me life lessons about forgiveness, compassion and hard work. She is not just a life changer, she is a life-giver, willing to share the ups and downs of life with each of us and her beautiful smile letting those around her know they are never alone. A champion for the underdog and cheerleader for her family. I treasure her and I know that the ASFA treasures her too.

Ann Marie P. Posted over a year ago

Melanie is a lifeline for the students at ASFA, and her knowledge of the school is phenomenal. When I applied for the library media position, she took her time to give me a tour and answer all my questions. There is no doubt in my mind that Melanie is the face of ASFA. She is truly a life changer on so many levels. This honor belongs to her for the person she is each and every day of the year.

Maria Marino Posted over a year ago

Melanie Lee is one of the strongest, smartest, kindest, and most genuine people I have had the fortune to work with. The love and support she shows to each and every child that walks through her door is immeasurable. She always puts others before herself and is truly the cornerstone of this institution. I could not think of a more deserving candidate for this honor.

Jesse Bates Posted over a year ago

The summary of Melanie's contributions is brilliant. It really describes the many contributions that Melanie has made to so many lives - young and older- through the tool of ASFA. I can't add to the list, but I can verify it. The hours she spent with me personally working through ever changing grade book formats; the kind and loving hints she gave about the conflicts in students lives (it was sometimes a miracle that some of them even made it to school, much less participated); the patience she showed with the endless line of students AND teachers gathered outside her door because we all knew that Ms. Melanie had the right answers to a universe of issues. And - best of all - just being a friend, someone to unload on so that frayed tempers and feelings didn't spill over into major divisions. She is certainly one of the angels walking amongst us mortals. An anchor, a source of love and reason. The song says "Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in" That tie is Melanie.

Ivy Borden Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Lee is the shiniest ray of light in the entire faculty of ASFA. She is kind and funny and seems to truly care about every kid who comes into her room wearily trying to check their grades or just to get a piece of candy. ASFA wouldn’t be the same without her! As a student who has been lucky enough to have Mrs. Lee’s comforting presence in my life since my very first day at ASFA, I can whole heartedly say she really and truly deserves this award!

Praise Tillman Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Lee has brought so much joy and light to my life and the lives of so many others. Anytime I was down I knew she was only a few minutes away in her office with a smile and ears to hear me. She is one of my best memories from ASFA and to her I will forever be greatful.

Jennifer Posted over a year ago

Melanie is so deserving of this award for so many reasons. She truly is a giver and puts others needs before her own. She loves unconditionally not only with her family but the kids at her school that she considers family. She loves without limits and would do anything for anyone in need. She always goes above and beyond to make sure her work is done. She is truly loves her job and all the people she comes in contact with each day. Anyone would be lucky to have Melanie in their life and I am very blessed to have her in my life. She has been a life changer for me and I she is a winner in my book for many awards!

Jennifer Wilson Posted over a year ago

My daughter is in her first year at Alabama School of Fine Arts and a dorm student. During the admission process, I got to know Melanie Lee and knew immediately that I could feel comfortable leaving my daughter for the first time. She is a true gem and deserves this award for a multitude of reasons.

Haden Marsh Posted over a year ago

Well deserved honor for an outstanding person.

Trey Sullivan Posted over a year ago

When I was a student at ASFA Ms. Lee helped me through every scheduling conflict imaginable. One year I was the only student in a study hall because of how my schedule worked and Ms. Lee called me before classes started to make sure I would be okay with this and wouldn't be lonely. She continued to check in with me once a week or so to make sure I was okay. Ms. Lee is one of the best parts about ASFA.

Haden Marsh Posted over a year ago

Well deserved honor for an outstanding person.

Nancy Slocum Posted over a year ago

When I first came to ASFA last year, Melanie Lee was the face of patience, kindness, and compassion. She was instrumental in making sure I felt comfortable and had everything I needed to make a smooth transition, even though that was not her primary responsibility. Melanie always goes above and beyond in helping anyone here at ASFA, whether it's a student, parent, or fellow employee.

Barbara Reyes Posted over a year ago

I met Melanie Lee when she became part of the family as the Mother in law to my nephew. Since the first day I met her, I thought very highly of her. She makes you feel as if you've known her forever. I love to sit and have long conversations with her when she comes to visit her daughter in Miami. A genuine human being full of knowledge and compassion. I can understand why the students at her school feel so comfortable being around this great woman. She truly inspires a sense of trust the minute you sit to talk to her. I am very happy to learn she's been nominated for this prestigious and very deserving award. I hope and pray you truly consider her for it. Sincerely, Barbara Reyes.

Charles Bryant Posted over a year ago

She always made an effort to make sure I felt comfortable in my classes, and took time to get to know me as an individual. Definitely a life changer in my book.

Denise Trimm Posted over a year ago

As former chair of the creative writing department at ASFA, I witnessed nearly every example given by Brad Hill’s portrait of Melanie Lee’s selflessness. She is kind, soft spoken, diligent, and always puts the children’s needs above all else. She has changed hundreds of lives, as her deeds ripple throughout the world by the lives she has touched. There is no better person than Melanie Lee.

Akilah Kidd Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee makes ASFA feel like a home away from home. Her warm, welcoming demeanor puts at ease every person who walks past her office. She goes above and beyond her responsibilities at work to ensure that everyone she interacts with is well taken care of. Her attention to detail and organization combined with her impeccable memory add to her top-notch reputation within the ASFA community.

Yamuna Meleth Posted over a year ago

Melanie Lee was one of the people that I always felt I could go to in high school. She helped to create a safe and inspiring environment!

Linda L'Hoste Posted over a year ago

What an amazing dedicated woman??????????

Sabrina Black Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee is a precious jewel and loved by so many.

Angela Amin Posted over a year ago

Truly Melanie is the jewel of the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Even while going through private crisis she has been a pillar to the student community and faculty. By far she epitomizes what a community life changer is. We love Melanie Lee.

Jennifer Dussich Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee has been a huge help in helping my daughter reach her goals at school. Her kind spirit has made my daughter more at ease at school. She helped her transform from homeschool to public school. They have an amazing relationship that I'm sure will continue even after graduation.

Kevin Chance Posted over a year ago

I worked with Melanie for four years from 2005-2009, and I cannot remember another colleague I have had that took such a loving, genuine interest in every student and every colleague she encountered. She consistently went above and beyond in making herself available to students, and I was amazed at how many student events she attended at the school at all hours of the day and night. The genuine interest she showed in these budding artist transformed their lives. Many of them might not have tremendous support networks at home, but they felt the love and encouragement to develop their talents from Melanie. Additionally, many of the young students lived in the dorm, and I always felt she was like a mom-away-from-home for many of these students. I cannot say enough positive comments about how she impacted the piano students I taught, and I know their current success traces back to many conversations and hugs in Melanie's office.

Pat Taylor Posted over a year ago

Melanie's mother passed away the night before "move-in" day for the dormies. She compartmentalized her grief and came to work on a Saturday to be sure her part was covered. What more can I say???

Jennifer Bratton Posted over a year ago

My daughter is a recent ASFA graduate who loves Melanie Lee. I cannot count the times during her time at ASFA that the answer to a question was "I don't know. I will talk to Ms. Lee about it." This honor could not go to anyone more deserving.

Reggie Powell Posted over a year ago

When I was a 17 year old senior at ASFA I had 4 study halls because of summer classes. I would spend at least one if not all 4 of those with Mrs. Melanie Lee. When I was having a meltdown (over affected "art kids" tend to have these ??) she would calm it, when I needed to be corrected she corrected me, and when money got scarce at my house because my mother got sick that she got me graduation invitations and some senior portraits. I will never forget the many kind things Mrs. Lee did for me during some of the most trying times in my life--even after graduation. Most of all though, I will always be grateful to her for teaching me to believe in myself no matter what--and that's the most valuable thing I have ever received.

Anna Willis Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee was so kind and loving when I was at ASFA. She was always willing to help students coordinate their comvoluted and packed schedules, even though it invoked a lot of puzzles on her end. She continues to go out of her way to help students today. I recently visited to the school to deliver a book that mh brother he left at home. When I ran into Ms Lee, she remembered who I was and she offered to take it to him in his homeroom. She had all the lunch periods and homerooms memorized by class. Ms Lee is AWESOME.

Marci Johns Posted over a year ago

What a beautiful and well deserved tribute for Ms. Lee!! As a parent, I can attest to her patience and kindness! I don't know that we would have made it through the application process without her. She clearly loves ASFA and all the students (and parents!) she serves. So happy for her nomination!

Malinda Henderson Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee has been an inspiration to myself, my asfa student and many others! She has always had an ear to listen, an eye to watch over and a heart to care about every person she comes in contact with. She is a blessing and we are better off knowing her! We love her!!

Misty Garrison-Whaley Posted over a year ago

Ms. Lee was truly a lifesaver for our family. She worked with us to make sure we had all of the paperwork in order to apply. The entire process was foreign to our family compared to the school our daughter was leaving. I know I have sent her numerous emails on subjects I know was not in her specified area, and she quickly and sweetly helped me out. She has always gone our of her way to help and always with a fabulous attitude. She care for the kids and is concerned for their success. She is amazing!

Kwoya Maples Posted over a year ago

Melanie has been kind to me since I've met her. She has an air about her that makes one feel warmly accepted immediately. As a new instructor she made me feel welcome to the school and is certainly one of the reasons I felt integrated so quickly.

Steve Nelson Posted over a year ago

The Alabama School of Fine Arts is recognized not only in Alabama but throughout the nation as a premiere public secondary school with world class programs in the fine arts, mathematics and sciences and humanities. There are many factors that contribute to this outstanding educational institution and one of those would be Melanie Lee. She serves all students regardless of discipline. Melanie is the first person to greet prospective students and their parents attempting to enroll, and the last person they are involved with prior to graduation. In the interim she is an advocate, listener and friend to the students helping them in many ways in their adolescence and through their challenging educational experience. Many bright lights shine to make ASFA a star in the world of secondary education and no light is brighter than Melanie Lee.

John Northrop Posted over a year ago

As former head of Alabama School of Fine Arts, I strongly endorse this nomination. Melanie Lee is a cornerstone institution in the school. During my time there, the most valuable player: Students, Parents, teachers, and administrators all depended on her. Nobody could be more deserving of this recognition.

Leigh Horsley Posted over a year ago

I believe that Melanie knows every student who has attended ASFA in the years she has been here. She will do anything for these kids and is very deserving of this award. I run the schools Foundation, and Melanie has worked closely with me many times to help identify students who need help and find the resources they need to be successful. I wholeheartedly recommend her for this honor.

Karen Tabert Posted over a year ago

Melanie Lee is awesome. I have known her for about 30 years and she has always been about “the kids”. She has been with the school systems ever since I have known her. She takes everyone under her wings and shows love to each and everyone. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been blessed by knowing her. She deserves this award!!