When asked how her father inspires her to go to college, during a phone interview with The Park Record, Mellissa Mellin, Ecker Hill Middle School seventh-grader, burst into tears.

The phone went silent on the other end. The only sounds that could be heard were the soft calming voice of a father soothing his weeping daughter.

"I just feel that my dad works so hard to give me and my sisters a good future and a chance to be someone in life," Mellin said when she had gathered herself enough to comment. "It feels so good to have confidence and bravery, and I learned it all from him. I'm so proud of my dad and he is the best one I could ever wish for."

According to her father, Jose Mellin, she is an emotional girl, who has a heart of gold.

Other than a heart of gold, the Latina student has a 4.0 GPA and list of extra-curricular activities that has recently earned her an induction into the National Junior Honor Society.

Last year, the 13-year-old learned of the program, which recognizes student excellence, from her peers at school. Recognizing this was a good opportunity to get her one step closer college acceptance, she made it her priority to make the cut.

"I met with Mrs. Amendola [counselor at Ecker Hill] to discuss what it would take for me to reach this goal," Mellin said. "We both decided if I kept my grades where they were and I got involved in more activities at school I would have a chance."

A few weeks ago, Willow Amendola-Duncan, called her into the counseling office to break the news to the driven student: she was now college bound.

"I couldn't have been more proud of myself," Mellin said. "All I wanted to do was get home and tell my family."

"She was extremely in shock and very excited when I told her in my office," Amendola-Duncan said. "When I saw her father later in the week, I told him how proud we all are of Mellissa. He is a very proud father."

According to the NJHS website, the organization recognizes outstanding middle-level students who demonstrate excellence in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character. With provided leadership development opportunities, the organization prepares and empowers students to serve their schools and communities.

"To continue with my success, I need to keep my grades up and have confidence in myself," Mellin said. "By focusing on other activities as well as my grades, I have had a lot of opportunities to serve the community and others that need it. I think serving is just as important as good grades."

In order to serve her school and community, Mellin joined the Latinos in Action program at the beginning of the school year. Serving as secretary for the program, she recognizes the importance of her participation, but she explained the ability to make her voice heard was equally important.

"I consider myself a role model," Mellin said proudly. "I want people to look up to me as a good sister, friend and a good peer. As Latinos, we don't have a voice and people think we don't have futures. I have a voice and I want to let everybody know that we are good people and our futures are bright if we work hard."

During the school year, Mellin along with 15 other Latino students at Ecker Hill have been making their voices heard and showing their younger peers how to follow in their footsteps.

"We are responsible for a lot of activities designed to help the school and the Latino community in Park City," Mellin said.

This year, the group has helped with translations during parent-teacher conferences, child-care services for parents, tutoring programs for Latino students at other schools and a lunch-time recycling program she helped design.

The young student will be attending Treasure Mountain Junior High School next year and has already made more plans to scratch off her "to-do-list."

According to Amendola-Duncan, the determined student has been accepted into both the Leadership and Latinos in Action programs at the school.

"I know she is going to do extremely well in the future," Amendola-Duncan said. "Staying on track with her current goals, this girl is definitely going places in life."

"I plan to participate in these programs until I graduate [high school]," Mellin said. "My GPA will always be important, but these programs give me responsibility and life lessons that books can't teach."