Melissa Thandokazi Sontashe was already dreaming of big business when she was little. Even though she was poor she would picture herself all grown up with lots of money. She pictured herself giving some of that money to the less fortunate people who lived in her rural community.
“From a young age I looked up to people like Oprah Winfrey.”
As a girl she would sit in her grandmother’s small house in the Eastern Cape and imagine herself living this life. “My granny was very strict. As a child I didn’t like living with her because I was a very playful child and she would always reprimand me,” Melissa says.
Her mother, who worked in Jo’burg as a cleaner at UCS, would visit during school holidays. “These were the best times ever because she’d bring us groceries and I’d get new clothes,” she says.
Then in 2002 her grandmother passed away and she packed her meagre belongings to go back to Jo’burg with her mom. She was immediately enrolled at UCS. “I was fortunate enough to attend the school, which has a long-established reputation for providing an excellent standard of education. As a learner there I was recognised for my good academic performance.”
After matriculating in 2013 Melissa went on to get a certificate in bookkeeping at Boston College, which was funded by UCS. The school recognised in her that spark of ambition and a desire to succeed. She proved her metal and was invited to become an intern at UCS in 2014.
“I was given the opportunity to gain work experience and develop my skills at the school. This opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time because I was at a point where I was confused about the direction to take in my life. It didn’t help that my mother couldn’t afford the college fees on her salary and I was that close to becoming a dropout,” she says.
Melissa began to intern in the UCS administration department assisting with learner account queries, capturing data, assisting in administering new applications and doing other office administration duties.
She is currently doing her degree in Financial Accounting with UNISA, which is also being funded by the school. “I am very grateful for the opportunities I have been given by the school to realise my potential,” Melissa states.
Now she is getting closer to her childhood dream. She is working hard to qualify as a chartered accountant so that one day she can run her own accountancy firm. “Being taken into the UCS family from the beginning of my school life and being able to study with a bursary has made my life so much easier,” she says.
“When I was at my valedictory service in my last year of school and I was listening to all the words spoken and memories shared, I realised how my whole life has been in UCS. Everything I know today is because of every single person in the school who made an effort in building me up.”