One never knows where a life changing opportunity might come from.
For Melick Lubin, his arrived via one of America’s most beloved celebrities.
In 2017, the Penn State Scranton sophomore was among a group of students from Summit Academy Charter School in Brooklyn, New York, who received college scholarships provided by comedienne Ellen DeGeneres in partnership with Walmart. (See the video of DeGeneres' scholarship announcement here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hlvc0G4sUus&feature=youtu.be)
Not only that, but Lubin and his fellow students appeared on DeGeneres’ daytime talk show several times, and were followed by camera crews for a docuseries that streamed on her EllenTube channel.
Three years later, Lubin remains “beyond grateful” for DeGeneres’ generosity.
“Ellen changed my life -- I can honestly say that,” said Lubin, who transferred to Penn State Scranton in the fall. “College was going to be tough to pay for, and I didn’t want my mom to be in too much debt in order for me to go.”
The scholarship fully funded Lubin’s first two years at State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany (commonly referred to as University at Albany), and is now covering most of his tuition at Penn State Scranton.
Attracted to the campus by the opportunity to test his basketball skills on the collegiate level, Lubin was a key contributor to the campus’ men’s basketball team this season. The six-foot-five-inch forward averaged 5.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as Scranton finished with a 7-18 record in PSUAC action.
According to men’s head basketball coach Chris Sload, Lubin has plenty of potential on the hardwood. Beyond that, though, he’s simply “a great ambassador for our basketball program,” Sload said.
“Melick is just a great person. He is so energetic, and it shows during practices and workouts,” Sload said. “His first year was a success, and he grew to become our top big guy. I feel he will continue to progress into a dominant big guy in our league in the next two years.”
Meanwhile, the corporate communication major is performing exceptionally in the classroom, finishing the fall semester with a 3.87 GPA.
So far, the change of scenery has been a very good one for Lubin, who lives in The Commons apartments off University Drive.
“I wanted to be academically challenged, as well as be allowed to excel athletically. Penn State Scranton was one of the best schools for me to have that opportunity,” he said. “I love the campus. For a smaller campus, there’s a lot going on, and it’s easier to be social with everyone. This feels like my home away from home.”
From dream to reality
A lifelong Brooklyn resident, Lubin was raised in the Flatbush and Bedford-Stuyvesant sections. During his teens, he traveled to the Red Hook section to attend Summit Academy, on account of the school’s academic rigor.
One day during his senior year, he and some other students were attending an after-school meeting when DeGeneres’ name suddenly came up.
“I think it happened to be Ellen’s birthday, if I remember correctly,” Lubin said. “They put us on a Skype call with one of Ellen’s producers. I thought, ‘Really? Ellen DeGeneres? The woman my mom watches?’”
The producer informed the students that the show wanted to spotlight them because they were excelling academically in an under-served neighborhood that, as Lubin put it, “is a tough one to excel in.”
From there, the students were flown to Los Angeles to be interviewed by DeGeneres on her show. They referred to it as their “senior trip,” Lubin said.
Immediately upon meeting DeGeneres at the show, Lubin found her to be “the most loving person.”
“Everyone talks about how she smells great -- and she really did!” he said. “Someone said beforehand that we’d find ourselves looking into her eyes. Sure enough, I was stuck staring at her and admiring her. And people think she’s funny on her show, but she’s just funny in general. She made me feel very relaxed.”
During the show’s taping, DeGeneres had the school’s entire senior class, along with their teachers, gather around her on the set. After speaking on the importance of a college education, she gave them the good news.
“She just came through and blessed us all,” Lubin said. “When she first told us that we were getting the scholarship, I was just shocked. The tears just started coming down my face -- I just didn’t know how to react. It was unreal. I didn’t speak for about 20 minutes, because I couldn’t process what was happening. The first thing I did when I got backstage was call my mom.”
That was just the beginning. Following that, Lubin was among a select group of Summit Academy students chosen to be profiled in the “Summit” docuseries that ran on EllenTube. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPlLpS7OvbM) And, during a subsequent trip to DeGeneres’ show to promote the project, he and the other students received an additional $10,000 from Walmart. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80_r76thjN0)
A new opportunity
Under the stipulations of the scholarship, Lubin could attend any New York state university tuition-free for four years. He chose Albany, as did several other Summit Academy students.
While he enjoyed his time at Albany, he found himself feeling the ambition to play basketball on a level higher than the club team he was a member of there.
Fate eventually intervened through a friend who was considering coming to Penn State Scranton to play basketball. Lubin was intrigued, and after doing some research came to the conclusion that the campus presented not one, but two great opportunities – to play competitive college basketball and to “attend a Penn State school and earn a Penn State degree.”
With that, he was sold. His mom, though, needed a bit more selling.
“My mom, to her credit, has always had my back. She said, ‘At the end of the day, it’s your decision. And whatever you do, I’ll support you,’” Lubin said.
Lubin hasn’t regretted the decision. He’s formed tight bonds with the other members of the basketball team and is looking forward to improving his game next season. And, in switching from business to corporate communication, he’s found a major that’s more well-suited to his goals.
“I think it’s a great change. Corporate communication is more my personality, more who I am. And there’s still the business aspect of it,” said Lubin, praising the guidance he’s received from his adviser, Dr. Kimberly Flanders, assistant teaching professor of corporate communication and corporate communication program coordinator.
Once his college days are over, Lubin has aspirations of landing a communications job in the sports industry. His ultimate dream job -- to one day become the chief communications officer for a professional team.
Until then, Lubin will keep working hard in order to make those dreams a reality and to fulfill the promise he and the other Summit Academy students made upon receiving their scholarships.
“I’m still trying to do everything I can to live up to that scholarship and my goals in terms of what I said I would do with it,” he said. “The scholarship motivates me to do well.”
In 2017, Melick Lubin received a scholarship from comedienne Ellen DeGeneres. Today, he's using that scholarship to pursue a corporate communication degree at Penn State Scranton.