OGDEN — Working toward a better life for her son has gotten one Weber State University student a bit of statewide attention.

Mellowdey Trueblood, 34, was recognized during Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s 2016 State of the State address Wednesday, Jan. 27, at the Utah State Capitol. During his speech, Herbert said something Trueblood told him has made an impression on him: “A lot of brilliant minds are lost to poverty.”

“As a child and now as an adult, she has experienced constant economic struggles, homelessness, joblessness and a feeling that life just isn’t what it could or should be,” Herbert said of Trueblood. 

In his speech, he lauded Trueblood for enrolling in a paralegal program at Weber State University, where she’s working toward a better future for her and her family — or as Trueblood calls it, turning her “potential into progress.”

“I am trying to break the cycle of poverty so he doesn’t have to go through what I went through,” Trueblood said of her 7-year-old son, Zen. She said she was the child of a single mother, too.

“My mother did the best she could with what she had, and it wasn’t much,” Trueblood said.

In the past, Trueblood felt there was only a lack of opportunity in front of her. She said she didn’t know there were options available that would help her rise above poverty.

But Trueblood said that changed when she was coached by Libby Shelton, a family success coach at the Department of Workforce Services in Ogden. She said Shelton put her in a program called The Next Generation Kids Project, which focuses on inter-generational poverty as part of a Family Employment Program.

Shelton encouraged her to enroll in Legacy of Learning, a non-credit program at the WSU Community Education Center for disadvantaged adults who need access to education. At the time, Trueblood was working at the front desk of a local hotel and had a difficult time finding childcare that would accommodate the job’s irregular shifts.

Through the program, Trueblood was set up with a laptop and hot spot to take online courses in July 2015. By October, she had earned two certificates — one for core digital literacy and another for career readiness.

After Trueblood completed the core curriculum, she expressed interest in the legal field.

“Because continuing education offered a paralegal online program, we knew we could help her,” said Kimberly Love, a WSU Community Education program administrator.

Trueblood said her two finished courses and paralegal class — which she plans to complete in March — have been worthwhile challenges.

“Hopefully my son will learn that hard work does get you a better life,” she said.

Trueblood shared her story with Gov. Herbert after meeting him through The Next Generation Kids Project. She said she was honored he chose to mention her and the work she’s been doing during his speech.

And it’s that hard work that Shelton said has made the difference for Trueblood.

“One of the secrets of how successful she’s been is she came coachable,” Shelton said. “I tried to make sure ... that I started at a place that was not scary so we could experience those small successes. Once she experienced those things, she took off on her own.”

Shelton said she appreciates Trueblood’s willingness to work hard, even through obstables.

“Whenever she got down, she took a deep breath and she kept going,” Shelton said. “She has done amazing things with the program and getting stable.”

Shelton said emergency surgery at one point didn’t even get Trueblood down.

“She was able to pick it right back up when the next one came back around,” she said of the course rotation. “She was able to get in front of things when problems happened. She’s learned really well how to advocate for herself.”

Shelton said Trueblood still has problems ahead of her, but she is determined to work through them because she’s seen the light at the end of the tunnel.

“She’s learned to reach out for help when she needs it,” Shelton said.

To see Gov. Herbert’s mention of Trueblood in the State of the State address, visit utah.gov/governor/sots/ and fast-forward to 21:30.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook.

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