Melissa Kraft is a member of six honors societies. She is also double-majoring in Psychology and Sociology and minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and Educational Studies. In April, she won the Outstanding Senior in Sociology Award at the Honors Convocation and the A. Kenneth Pye Award at the Hilltop Excellence Awards.
Kraft is no stranger to receiving recognition for her achievements, but to Kraft the most important thing is providing care to those in her community.
“In high school, I knew that I wanted to help people but I wasn’t sure at what capacity or what that would look like,” Kraft said.
While Kraft may have entered SMU unsure of what her college experience would look like, today she appears self-assured in her pursuits.
“There’s been so many incredible experiences and connections I’ve been able to have through both of these majors—particularly since they’re so hands-on and people-oriented,” Kraft said.
Kraft has been working as a research assistant at the SMU Family Research Center since 2017 where she gained valuable experience.
“I had the opportunity to work with clients and participants directly, which was such a unique experience for me to have as an undergraduate college student, Kraft said. Being able to use research to make an impact on people’s lives has been incredibly rewarding.”
She has worked on three major projects covering a range of subjects including a clinical trial for children exposed to violence, an evaluation study for the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, and a meta-analysis of interventions for teen dating violence.
In addition to working in a research center, Kraft volunteers as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, a confidential text message service for people in crisis.
“I’ll often hear from clients saying things like ‘you’ve saved my life.’ To be a part of that and to make a small difference in someone’s life is incredibly humbling,” Kraft said.
She has volunteered almost 150 hours and has had more than 250 conversations since becoming a Crisis Volunteer in September of 2018.
Kraft doesn’t go unaffected by the interactions she has when volunteering for the text line.
“I’d be lying if I said it never impacted me and I never felt anything because we’re human,” Kraft said. “I feel like a lot of people within the social sciences go into these fields because of their empathy. It’s okay to have.”
Kraft believes that it is important to set boundaries when working with others and to take a step back to focus on practicing self-care.
“For me, self-care consists of listening to my favorite music, spending time with friends, watching funny Netflix sitcoms, and journaling,” Kraft said.
Kraft also enjoys spending time with her younger sister, Valerie Kraft, who just completed her sophomore year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
“I’m amazed by Melissa’s dedication to education. She inspires me to pursue my academic passions,” Valerie Kraft said.
Valerie is following in her older sister’s footsteps by majoring in Psychology in addition to Medicine, Health, and Society.
Kraft has also inspired Valerie through her acts of community service.
“Melissa leads by example. She spreads so much love in the community, and I’m so proud to be her little sister,” Valerie Kraft said.
Kraft has been a member of Mustang Heroes since 2015 and participates in service projects at various local nonprofit organizations including Heart House, Reading Partners, and Head Start.
“Over the past five years, I’ve completed over 1,000 hours of service at a variety of nonprofit organizations, Kraft said. Serving others is truly my calling.”
Kraft has also served through participating in two SMU Alternative Spring Break trips and travelled to St. Louis to volunteer at Crisis Nursery.
Kraft’s service work stems back to growing up in Indiana and volunteering throughout most of her life.
“When I was 16, I had the honor of representing my high school at Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership seminar of Indiana and later represented my state at the HOBY World Leadership Congress. I’ve been back to volunteer ever since,” Kraft said.
Kraft is looking forward to continuing her work with HOBY this summer.
“I will be serving as Senior Facilitator for HOBY Texas North and as Wellness Director for the HOBY World Leadership Congress,” Kraft said.
Her position as Wellness Director will allow her to provide care and counseling to ambassadors and staff, facilitating programming, as well as helping to implement activities to promote overall wellness.
“I want to continue to give back to the incredible organization that gave me so much and has helped me find my voice as a leader,” Kraft said.
Kraft has also served multiple roles in her sorority, Gamma Phi Beta.
Past president of Gamma Phi Beta, Katie Stolarski, values the contributions Melissa has made to the sorority throughout her past four years as a member.
“Melissa has contributed greatly to Gamma Phi Beta through serving in several positions. As PACE (Personal and Chapter Enrichment) Chair, she led the chapter in activities that educated members on mental and physical wellness, sisterhood, and personal growth. She inspires other members with her amazing amount of community service and her thoughtfulness and care for her sisters.”
This month, Kraft will complete her undergraduate degree and her time in Gamma Phi Beta.
However, Kraft isn’t leaving SMU just yet.
“I’m going to be starting SMU’s masters program in counseling in the fall and I’m so excited to see what the future brings next!” Kraft said.