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Melena fell in love with MSU, then found her way back to the College of Law

When she was 13, Melena Felbarth entered the Michigan foster care system. She hadn’t seen her mother since she was six and her dad, the only parent she knew, had just died.

During her teen years, she moved from home to home. She wasn’t sure what her future held, but she was pretty sure it didn’t include “a good school like MSU.” That was until her senior year in high school, when a friend from foster care who attended MSU asked her to visit. It was during that visit that Melena began to see her future here.

“I fell in love with the campus,” Melena said. “I didn’t know if I could afford to go, and I didn’t have anyone to help me. But I applied, and I got in. It was the best thing.”

A part of Melena’s freshman financial aid package in 2006 included the fledgling Spartan Advantage scholarship, an award created to help students just like her: Michigan’s neediest students who could not otherwise dream of attending MSU.

“If I hadn’t been offered financial aid, I wouldn’t have come,” Melena said.

Melena did not graduate from MSU, at least not as an undergrad. She transferred to Texas State University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. But her love for Michigan State remained, and her MSU journey wasn’t finished.

After serving in the US Army as a Chinook helicopter crew chief in Afghanistan and working for the State of Michigan as a foster care case manager, Melena was able to achieve her dream of an MSU degree. The G.I. bill and other forms of aid allowed her to return to East Lansing and attend the MSU College of Law, where she received her J.D. She currently works with KPMG in Chicago as a tax associate.

She credits programs like Spartan Advantage with setting her on the path that led to her success.

“They’re literally a lifeline to kids like me, who feel like they deserve to be in the situation they’re in,” Melena said. “But that doesn’t mean they can’t go and do great things. I work for one of the top four accounting firms in the world, and I came from nothing. And it all started with me coming to Michigan State.”