Melanie Ruelas was a single mother living in Madison when she decided to further her education. At the time, she held an interest in finance that she discovered while in high school. “I really enjoyed math in high school, and I took a few personal finance-type classes,” she says. “I started out in a teller role at Chase Bank when I was a senior, and I pursued it from there.”
She enrolled in Madison College because it was convenient, affordable and close to home. Two years later, she graduated with an associate degree in Supervisory Management with an emphasis in finance.
“[Madison College] helped prepare me for working in a professional environment and become more knowledgeable about the potential that I have with my degree,” Ruelas explains. “There is a realm of different avenues I could have gone with that degree, and it helped me pinpoint where I was passionate, which really is on the financial side.”
Initially starting out as a teller, she later became a financial specialist and now manages two Summit Credit Union branches. “I had the opportunity to gain a lot of experience and work my way up to managing two locations,” she says. “I have the opportunity to coach and mentor staff along with serving members on a daily basis. I enjoy working on financial plans that help put members in a better financial position and crafting loan solutions where I can be creative and use my math skills.
Already established in her financial career, Ruelas recently decided to add another skill to her resume, which was a little more out of her comfort zone. “I had a passion to pursue fire service,” she says. “The idea of giving back to the community and incorporating strength training was intriguing to me.” She joined Entry Level Firefighting at Madison College and received her certificate in November of 2017.
Ruelas has worked part-time at the Marshall Volunteer Fire Department since last May. “Serving the community is something outside of my career that I enjoy doing,” she says. “And I think there is a greater need for women in more dominant roles in any type of service.” In the fall, she will pursue her Firefighter 1 certification.
Ruelas’ son Tristan, who was very young when she decided to attend technical college, is now getting ready to make a decision regarding his post-secondary education. “He will be graduating in less than four months and we’re having the conversation now about him going to Madison College and looking at IT,” says Ruelas. “What I really love about technical college is that you can gain knowledge, skill and experience all at the same level as you can a university — but it’s affordable. It’s not as intimidating as going to a four-year university.”