Commencement Stories — Melanie Queponds

Transfer student credits UCR professor and theater program in giving her confidence

Melanie Queponds

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — When Melanie Queponds transferred to the University of California, Riverside, she was ready to devote her time to academics — and to theater. She learned about dedication and perseverance from her parents.

Queponds, who is double majoring in theater and English, transferred from Riverside City College three years ago. Coming to UCR was a little scary, she admitted. But that was until she discovered her love for theater, and a support system within the UCR Honor’s Program.

The first couple classes she took at UCR focused on women and Latino theater, two elements of dramatic performance history she was unaware of. And she loved them. So, the 22-year-old got involved with UCR’s Latina/o Play Project, directing and assisting in various performances. Queponds also met the esteemed Tiffany Ana López, former UCR professor in the Department of Theatre, Film and Digital Production, who served as the advisor for the Latina/o Play Project.

“Meeting Dr. López and knowing that Latino theater exists was fascinating. I can’t credit Dr. López enough; she saved my life,” Queponds said.

At UCR, Queponds directed several performances, including Mariachi Girl and Tomás and the Library Lady. She’s graduating in June with honors, finishing with a 3.76 GPA.

In August, Queponds heads to DePaul University in Chicago, where she will work on an MFA in theater directing, with a focus in children’s theater. Eventually, she wants to become a dramatic arts teacher in a public school, or possibly a college professor.

The move to Chicago is exciting, but leaving her parents and two siblings will be tough. Her family, especially her parents, have been her rock, she said.

When Queponds stays on campus until late at night, either studying or preparing for a performance, she knows her mom will be awake at home, waiting for her. Many times, they chat well past midnight; Queponds fills mom in with all of her day’s occurrences. Mom always saves a dinner plate for Queponds in the microwave. When Queponds goes home early to get laundry done, mom has gone a step ahead of her. That’s mom’s way of supporting her eldest daughter, the first in the family to receive a college education.

Queponds’ father is an offset printing technician. He works long hours, and spends a lot of time traveling. But he always makes sure his daughter has gas money.

“He travels, works over time, works at nights – until the job is done. He works hard and provides everything for us. He’s always made sure we don’t feel like we are lacking anything,” Queponds said, wiping away tears as she recounts stories about her parents’ dedication to her and her siblings.

Both of her parents were born in Mexico. They have learned English and established a family in Menifee, where they have lived for the past 11 years. Their dedication inspires her, she said.

“Seeing that from my mom and dad, I tell myself, I should also do what I love. Theater. And I’m working to be really good at it,” Queponds said.

Throughout the three years that she’s been at UCR, she’s built her writing and directing repertoire – as well as her self-confidence in order to move to Chicago.

“Without the Latino Play Project, the Honor’s Program mentors, I wouldn’t have had the courage to make this huge change and move across the country,” Queponds said. “And it’s because of everything I found here at UCR.”

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