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Melissa and her husband Mohammad Al-Ahmadi dance together. Melissa recently joined the Marshall Optimists Club.

The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met online Wednesday, May 27, with President Le Ila Dixon noting a shipment of 10,000 masks and other PPE gear to the hard hit Navajo Nation from the Republic of South Korea in gratitude for its 800 members who used their language as an unbreakable code for radio messages during the Korean War.

While this little-known story in the famous ‘police action’ often goes untold, the South Koreans have never forgotten the Navaho contributions. According to the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs in South Korea, around 130 of these “Code Talkers” are still alive today. “We hope our small gifts will console the veterans in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis,” said committee co-chairman Kim Eun-gi.

With our normal routines interrupted by the pandemic and the delay it has caused in the graduation ceremonies for the MHS Class of 2020, we are gratefully reminded of the work all year with our Young Texans by MISD Senior Counselor Suzan Harrison and MISD Assistant Principal Nakena Bayless. The program recognizes outstanding MHS Seniors each month. This week, we are especially thankful for their taking time to obtain for us the names of the three young women and three young men who have been selected at random to each receive a $500 grant.

The $500 grant winners and their parents are as follows: Blanca Lopez daughter of Blanca and Cecilio Lopez; Darbi Hill daughter of Kenneth and Stacy Hill; Eliz’beth Porcayo daughter of Maria Carbajal; Hilario Espinoza Gonzalez son of Maria P. Gonzalez and Santiago Espinoza; Jose Diosdado son of Salvador and Judith Diosdado; and Cody Anderson son of Angela and Jerry Anderson.

We are especially excited to share this week the story of Melissa Al-Ahmadi because, although she had attended several meetings, she made her decision to join after the coronavirus was preventing us from getting together. That decision was a great shot in the arm for our club! Melissa writes the following.

“I was born and raised in East Texas. My parents are Wes and Rhonda Skelton, and I grew up in Marshall with my two brothers and two sisters. In 1997, I graduated from Marshall High and in 2001 from East Texas Baptist University.

Pursuing a graduate degree in social work, I earned my masters in that field from Baylor University in 2005. While I was studying social work, I met my husband, Mohammad Al-Ahmadi at a Subaru car dealership in Temple.

We were married in August 2005 while we were both living and working in Austin. Eventually we moved to the Belton, Texas area, before relocating for two years to Lynwood, Washington. Lynwood is in the Puget Sound area. We returned to Central Texas in 2011. Our return to the Lone Star state was greeted with one of the hottest summers on record.

Eventually Mohammad and I decided to move to Marshall to be closer to my family, parents, brother and sister, most of whom live in the East Texas area. That return to East Texas occurred in 2019. Mohammad and I have an engaging black and white Border Aussie mix, Smalls, who joined our family in June 2019.

My social work career has been varied, working in protective services, crisis services, inpatient psychiatric, community mental health and eventually case management. I now work for a company that provides case management and utilization management services to various insurance companies across the country. Happily I can do my work at home and in Marshall. As a result, I have been able to keep doing my job during the pandemic.

I embrace my creative side by crocheting, paper crafts and making party decorations. I also enjoy playing a variety of board and card games. My perfect Saturday night is grilling good food and spending time playing a board game or Dungeons and Dragons with my family and friends.

I am also an activist who diligently works to promote the rights of immigrants, people of color, women’s health, LGTBQ+ and other issues involved in protecting the rights of each individual.

I have been drawn to the Noon Optimist Club of Marshall by its goal of finding positivity in all experiences and at the same time seeking to enrich the lives of today’s youth. I personally hope to be able to contribute to the development of Marshall’s youth toward a brighter future.”