Española Valley basketball player earns $22,000 through Jackie Robinson Foundation as part of scholarship haul

·3 min read

Jul. 3—Melaki Jones utilized the college scholarship system so well, the 2022 Española Valley graduate said he probably won't have to pay for a thing in college.

Jones, who was a varsity letterman on the boys basketball team for the past four years, spent a lot of his senior year learning how to navigate the application process for a multitude of scholarships, big and small. He earned dozens of scholarships that, altogether, paid thousand of dollars for him to go to the University of New Mexico, where he plans to study nuclear engineering.

"It's all paid for," Jones said of the cost of his college education. "Now, I'm getting paid to go to school."

Jones might have saved his best performance for last, though. He was just one out of a field of 3,000 applicants for the Jackie Robinson Foundation college scholarship program. He ended up being one of the program's 70 recipients and was awarded a four-year, $22,800 scholarship earlier this month. The foundation's college scholarship program administers one of the nation's premier scholarship and leadership development programs for talented college students, according to its website. It also offers scholars a four-year program that includes career guidance, internships, permanent job placement, travel abroad, leadership and practical life skills training.

The Jackie Robinson Foundation was created in 1973 by Rachel Robinson in memory of her late husband, who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947 and became a Hall of Fame player for the Brooklyn (now Los Angeles) Dodgers.

Jones gave credit to his mom, Melissa Montoya, for helping him find so many scholarship opportunities, including his most recent award.

"She saw it and sent me the application, and I filled it out," Jones said.

While the foundation scholarship was his biggest haul, he also received scholarships through the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, Toyota, Jemez Electric, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the New Mexico Activities Association. He even earned a grant through the Hispanic Heritage Foundation Engineering Youth Award, earning the bronze award among a field of 30,000 applicants.

Jones said he learned pretty early in the application process there was a pattern many programs used, which made it easier to apply as the year went along.

"Some of the scholarship [programs] have the same questions, so I reused the essays — a lot," Jones said.

Jones also checked a lot of boxes when it came to community service (a member of Compassion Through Action, which helps feed Española's homeless population), athletics (a four-year varsity basketball player and a member of the boys golf team as a senior) and academics (members of the National Honor Society; New Mexico Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement; and the National Society of High School Scholars).

The process for the Jackie Robinson Foundation program, though, was more complex. Jones said it was a two-step process — the application, followed by an interview. Jones said he hadn't heard from the foundation officials for a while, so he figured he didn't make the cut. But he received a letter notifying him he earned an interview, which came in the spring.

"That was nice," Jones said. "There were two or three interviews, and it was hard remembering all of the things I sent them."

One thing Jones said his athletic endeavors helped him learn is the importance of hard work, adding it wasn't easy to get up early in the mornings during the fall and winter for basketball practice.

"I hated practice," Jones said. "I do not like getting up early [for practice], then having to stay up late [to finish schoolwork]."

Jones' reward, though, was not just getting his college education paid for, but making sure school paid him back.