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New Sight woman loves to teach, learn

More than 10 years ago while working in a factory, selling cars part-time and supporting five kids single-handedly, Melnee Berry got a call from a former mentor that would change her life forever.

When Copiah-Lincoln Community College added a nursing program and needed a marriage and family therapy and counseling instructor, Berry seemed a perfect fit for the job. Gradually, classes built up and more were added, and when the opportunity to go full-time presented itself, she jumped in and hasn’t looked back since.

Prior to teaching at Co-Lin, Berry obtained her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and in counseling and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and counseling. Last year she was granted a doctorate degree through a program called Conflict Analysis and Resolution. She now teaches psychology, sociology, social problems, marriage and family, human growth and development and several online classes through Mississippi Virtual Community College.

“Students inspire me every single day,” Berry said. “I am passionate about teaching and opening students’ eyes to possibilities around them.”

As far as public policy goes, Berry is also passionate about changing DHS and Child Protective Services and doing everything she can to get in and teach people about adverse childhood experiences. Family reunification and children in these systems are the topics of her dissertation.

Berry is mother of five children — Jacquelyn, Nathan, Jesse, Dannah and Miriam — and has six grandchildren. Berry has lived in the New Sight community all her life and is a member of New Sight Baptist Church. For the first time in 35 years, she doesn’t have a child at home.

Describing herself as a summertime person, Berry enjoys container gardening, playing with her plants, being in the yard, kayaking and just being outside. But, spending these past couple of months taking in the summer breeze is not all Berry has been itching to do.

Berry’s biggest goal in her Social Problems class is to teach students that there are many different sides to every story and try to teach them critical thinking skills when they examine social problems. Immigration is always a hot topic and so multifaceted, as Berry described it.

“I want to speak with great passion and with great certainty about that issue, but I can only do that if I have actually seen the path that immigrants walk,” Berry said. “Until you look and you really engage the process, how can you talk about this needs to change or that needs to change?”

Her next mission, with help from connections to border patrol, is to get her boots on the ground in south Texas near the border and observe this epidemic for herself.

“I don’t know where it’s going to take me and I don’t know what I’m going to learn, but that’s part of that lifelong process of learning,” Berry said. “I pray I never get too old to learn things that are new and different.”

Story by Lacie Tarver