School of General Studies sophomore Eleena Melamed has been named one of 20 undergraduates across the United States and Canada to win a 2003 Goldman Sachs Global Leadership Award. The award honors second-year college students around the world who have demonstrated outstanding academic ability and leadership achievements.
Melamed, a political science and Middle East and Asian languages and cultures major, co-founded a campus organization to help students to combat depression. She has also begun an independent research project on the subject of a newly launched grassroots Middle East peace initiative. Her efforts have led to an internship this summer with the program's developers, including Ami Ayalon, the former head of the Israeli Secret Service, and Sari Nusseibeh, an advisor to Yasser Arafat.
"The basic idea is to get a grassroots movement going, some sort of peace process going again," Melamed said. "I had a chance to interview Ami Ayalon for my research project. Ayalon and Nusseibeh also invited me to the Kennedy School at Harvard to hear the both of them speak." Melamed said she then begged them to come help with the peace initiative.
And, after evaluating her resume, coursework and strong academic achievement -- with a GPA over 4.0 -- they offered her an internship. "I'm going to help them with whatever I can," she said.
Melamed, who was born in Jerusalem, came to New York City at age five. She soon discovered a passion for ballet and began training. At 17, she was offered a job with the American Ballet Theater, which she accepted.
Five years later, she decided to pursue her other dream, a college education. She enrolled in Columbia's School of General Studies, created specifically for students whose educations since high school have been interrupted or postponed for at least one academic year, and who now wish to complete the B.A. or B.S. degree.
During her ballet career, Melamed struggled with and overcame an eating disorder. She now volunteers her time to educate others about the disorder by telling about her experiences, appearing in a PBS NOVA documentary "Dying to Be Thin," and most recently serving as a panelist in a Columbia program on eating disorders called "How Do I Look?" -- part of the healthLIVE series of town hall meetings produced through Columbia Health Services.
Here at Columbia, she was one of the founders of Students Against Silence, a campus organization to help students combat depression that was instigated following several incidents of suicide on campus during her freshman year.
"We got together and decided we needed to do something and to start a group that can be a support, maybe try and build more of a sense of community on campus," said Melamed of the organization. "Last year we had a vigil in memory of those we lost. This year we're having a poetry slam, and we're bringing in poets and singers and university bands, just trying to bring the community together. We all work together, with Professor Dennis Dalton as our advisor."
In the coming weeks, 10 of the 20 U.S. and Canadian Global Leader winners will be chosen to join 40 other students selected internationally to attend the Goldman Sachs Global Leadership Institute in New York City this July. The Institute will offer further opportunities for those selected to examine current global issues under the guidance of faculty from Morehouse College and the Wharton School, Goldman Sachs executives, and leaders from nonprofit, business and government sectors.
The Goldman Sachs Global Leadership Award Program, now in its third year, is funded by the Goldman Sachs Foundation and administered by the Institute of International Education -- the same organization that administers the Fulbright Programs.
"We're hoping that this program creates the opportunity for these bright leaders of the next generation to learn how to break down cultural barriers by coming together and meeting young people from other cultures and other countries and ethnicities," said Stephanie Bell-Rose, president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation. "Some of this will challenge them to have to think outside of the box of their own culture."