Born and raised in Roxbury Massachusetts, Up2Us Sports Coach Melika Clark has overcome all of the obstacles that plague her hometown. Roxbury, a city known for its violence and gang infestation, is a difficult place for anyone to succeed. Nonetheless, Melika has used her love for sports and education to propel herself into a better future. As a child, Melika looked up to her older brother who played basketball, and so she started playing the sport in middle school. While she did play basketball well, Melika made it her mission to not only flourish in her sport but also in the classroom.
After graduating from high school, Melika pursued her degree in Management at nearby Regis College. There, Melika imagined herself working in the corporate world and admitted to never thinking about working at Fenway High School in any capacity. Unfortunately, after college, Melika lost her mother and went through a period where she needed to find herself. During her darkest moments, Melika had the administrators at Fenway High School to look to for a beacon of hope and support. In the course of her tough transition, Melika’s mentors at Fenway mentioned an opportunity to be a wellness coach and community leader. She accepted the position and what blossomed from there was an experience so positive, she never could have imagined it. After a year, Melika knew that she wanted to continue working with her students in addition to furthering her education. This is how she found Up2Us Sports. Melika raves about her commitment to her students’ academics in addition to their respective sports. She constantly reminds her students that there is life after athletics and how powerful education is.
Melika likes to talk about all of the times she carried two books in her book bag as a high school student. Not textbooks, but books she simply enjoyed reading. This same love for reading and education is something she encourages her students to share. On a daily basis, Melika emphasizes to her students that “being smart is cool and reading books is cool.” Even as a young coach, Melika admits that the change in technology poses a threat to her connectedness to her students. Even so, she remains patient and is oftentimes deemed as the “cool coach,” keeping up with the most relevant trends and pop culture. She instills in her students the importance of hard work and the need to place less value on materialistic things.
During Black History Month, Coach Melika hopes to make the month more meaningful for herself and her students. Melika plans to teach her students about about black historical figures, pre-slavery and the civil rights movement era. She feels that it’s imperative to teach her students that black history doesn’t just start with slavery. Alongside fellow Fenway High School Up2Us Coach Chandlor Lyles, Melika plans to emulate the African American Museum in Washington, D.C. during one of their class sessions. Melika hopes to make Black History Month relevant to her students by highlighting a few African American gamechangers of today - one being Lena Waithe.
Melika admires Lena’s ability to express herself while also crushing it in the entertainment industry. Lena, while being an entertainment extradoire, is a known activist for matters that personally affect a few of Melika’s students. Representation is key for Melika and she mentions how, as a young basketball player herself, she related to WNBA star Lisa Leslie. In addition to her ability to play well on the professional level, Lisa was a role model for young black girls who aspired to play basketball. Both Waithe and Leslie serve as role models to Melika as she transitions back into college at Mount Holyoke College to study music. She is excited to explore the plethora of opportunities music can grant her and is open to learning more about music in film.
With the guidance of her old principal and close friend, Melika has been able to remain strong in her truths and values when applying for positions in the corporate space. She is candid about her experience as a black woman as she shares about times her identity was threatened. Nonetheless, Melika is proud to say that she has been able to remain true to herself. As she describes her confidence, Melika proclaims “find your light! No one can be you but YOU!” This same proclamation is the motto she plans to advise her students. Melika refers to herself as a “knower and not a believer”. She explains to her students how important it is to know as opposed to believe. Knowledge is indeed power in Coach Melika's book as she credits literature for helping her “learn more about herself.”
Melika is thankful for the life principles that sports have taught her. Something she continues to reiterate to her students is to “never give up during those crunch-time, buzzer-beater moments.” With the knowledge she gained from the Up2Us Sports National Coach Training Institute, Melika has been able to support her students and takes on the responsibility of possibly being that “one person in their life pushing them.” Coach Melika has been able to create a positive space for her students and helps them affirm that they are indeed destined for greatness.