Alumni Spotlight: Dwayne Melton

Graceland alum Dwayne Melton `11

Dwayne Melton ’11 has gone from good to great!

Graceland’s supportive coaches, staff and faculty made all the difference in Dwayne’s life. He came back to campus a few weeks ago to say thanks…

“As a freshman football player, I came to Graceland in the fall of 2006. Tom Powell met with each of us on the team, and I told him that I was struggling. I was homesick, and Graceland was a culture shock – Lamoni couldn’t be more different than Chicago, where I grew up. Tom said, ‘this may not be the biggest school, but it is a great school, and it’s what you make of it.’ He understood that I was homesick, he listened and he encouraged me to look outside the box to see Graceland as a place of peace and quiet instead of boring. That was like the opening of a door for my journey through Graceland.”

“Another person that I talked to was President Sellars – he saw me sitting out in the courtyard one day and stopped to talk with me. He asked me how things were going and what was my plan as far as graduation. I told him my plan. He told me that it was a good plan but to think about what might be an alternative GREAT plan. So that sparked me to do better. The football staff was inspiring; Clayton was an example for working hard. They looked after me and pushed me forward. The TRiO program was really what kept me going. I wouldn’t have made it without them. Anytime I had an issue, whether academic or personal, they were there for me. Those experiences structure the person that I am today. I use that same approach in my work with youth. I always push them forward and help them see the bigger picture outside the box: You can be good, but why not be great!”

Dwayne graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. After graduation, he had an opportunity to play professional football, but because of injuries it didn’t pan out the way he had expected. He got a job as a basketball coach at a prep school in northeast Iowa at Quakerdale’s Promise Academy. For four years he helped student-athletes who had come from all over the county play against junior colleges and other prep schools, and he helped to give them an extra year displaying their talents.

Dwayne Melton mentoring students in Donna Hurt's classHe left to become a counselor at the State Training School in Eldora, Iowa, for boys. As part of the Iowa Department of Human Services, it provides a rehabilitation setting for boys 12-18 years old. “It is basically juvenile corrections work. Since I graduated in psychology and have been working with young men ever since, I really feel prepared and am glad to work in the mental health field. I wake up every day feeling like I have a mission.”

Dwayne came back to Lamoni for senior night of men’s basketball and visited with Donna Hurt, the academic advisor for TRiO and adjunct faculty at Graceland. Donna said she had some students who were interested in a career path similar to Dwayne’s and asked if he would share with them during her Introduction to Social Welfare class. Dwayne returned and was happy to encourage the students to think about jobs in the mental health field of corrections. “They stayed after my presentation, and we talked for about 40 minutes,” explained Dwayne.

While visiting, he heard about the GU4U alumni mentoring program and was excited about the chance to give back – to pay it forward – especially with freshmen football players who might feel the way he did. 

“Students want to talk to someone who has been in their same situation and will listen – especially right around midterm when they’re discouraged. I think it is important for students to talk to someone who has experienced the culture shock and those feelings of discouragement; someone who made it out and found success.”

“I am so appreciative of my time at Graceland even though I didn’t realize how much I was learning while I was there. Now I can look back and see how helpful these mentors were for me and how they shaped my life. Thank you, Graceland.”

Wide shot of Dwayne Melton mentoring students in Donna Hurt's class