Melissa Jean O'Neil
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Recipient, William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement
Melissa Jean O'Neal was born and raised in California. Her father died in 1984 and her mother contracted HIV in 1994. Melissa completed her California High School Proficiency Certificate in 1996, and in 1997, 16-year-old Melissa moved out of her mother's house to live alone. She worked to support herself while attending school full time at the College of the Sequoias. Concurrently, she was hired by the University of California's Research and Extension Center at Lindcove, where she worked in citrus entomology research. She enrolled at California State University, Fresno full time and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in December 2004. Melissa moved to San Luis Obispo to further her studies at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She is now pursuing a master of science degree in agriculture with a specialization in plant protection science. She works as a teaching assistant and research technician while attending class full time and maintaining a 4.0 GPA.