NAUGATUCK — The Beacon Falls Rotary Club has never presented a global grant in its four-year history. That changed Monday night when the club lent a big helping hand to a local woman.
The club presented Beacon Falls native and recent West Point Academy graduate Sarah Melville with a grant for $30,000 to continue her studies at Oxford University in England. The grant was awarded at the club’s district meeting at Santos’ Restaurant in Naugatuck.
Melville, who is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, graduated from Woodland Regional High School in 2010 before attending West Point. While at West Point, Melville studied international relations and systems management and designed a capstone project to help combat slavery around the globe.
“For me [receiving this grant is] a great opportunity to study something I’m really passionate about. I’ve been studying how to combat slavery since I was in seventh grade,” Melville said.
Melville cites Woodland Worldwide, a school-based, nonprofit organization with a mission to advance the rights of women and girls within the community and around the world, as really sparking her interest.
Former club President Joe Dowdell, who helped secure the grant for Melville, said this is the first time the Beacon Falls club, which was established in 2010, has presented a global grant.
The money came from Rotary International’s Global Grant program, Dowdell said.
Dowdell said Rotary members from around the world make donations towards the global grant and each branch has the opportunity to apply for it.
According to the Rotary International website, the grants have to fund activities carried out in other countries.
Melville’s plan to continue her studies at Oxford University made her the perfect candidate for the grant.
Club President Domenic Setaro said awarding the grant was good for Melville and the club.
“It’s not only the first [grant], it’s very important to us as a club to be part of something on an international level and to help someone move forward in such an amazing career choice,” Setaro said.
Melville said she originally went to West Point to become a leader. While there, she said, she fell in love with everything the Army had to offer.
“I’ve loved everything I’ve done. I’ve really enjoyed all the field exercises, it’s a great career, and I’ve met some amazing people,” Melville said.
She hopes by continuing her studies, she can help others in a specialized way for the Army.
“One area where slavery occurs is around conflict, especially when you have refugees,” Melville said. “Just knowing that I will be in a career field in which that is really important I think having a specialty in that area could be very beneficial where I go.”
Setaro said Melville’s passion to help others made the club want to secure the grant for her.
“She really showed a lot of what Rotary stands for in service above self and she proves you really can do whatever you set your heart to,” Setaro said.