By Mr. Jason KaneshiroMarch 28, 2013
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (March 28, 2013) -- A little girl's dream came true when she opened the mailbox one day and saw a letter addressed to her from the Office of the President of the United States.
In March of 2012, Gabriela Colón-Meléndez, daughter of Picatinny employees Reinaldo Colón and Louisa Meléndez, took on a homework assignment that tasked her with writing an essay on what she'd like to see changed in the world.
The one thing she chose to change was the cuts to funding scientific research that she had read about. But rather than let her essay sit unread beyond anyone outside of her school, she copied her essay and sent it off to the White House, hoping that it would be read by someone--anyone--and that it would make a difference.
Colón-Meléndez was inspired to write about saving funds for scientific research because her father has Multiple Sclerosis and ongoing stem cell research could lead to new discoveries that have the potential to improve the quality of life of all those with the condition.
Time went by and the letter was forgotten as daily life demanded the family's full attention.
Then, four months after sending the letter, Colón-Meléndez though briefly of what she had sent to the President as she checked the mailbox and saw a letter addressed to her from the White House.
It was a response from President Barack Obama.
The young fifth grader was stunned.
"We must have read it ten times just to be sure," said Colón-Meléndez recalling that day.
"We were amazed in the beginning because we weren't expecting an answer," said Colón.
Even though he didn't specifically say that things would change, he did say to not give up hope, the young girl said.
Meléndez said that the President receives about 1,000 letters a day and that they felt it was a very important achievement for their daughter to get the response because out of all those letters, her voice was heard.
"Every parent should encourage their child," Meléndez said.
"And every parent should provide the tools to achieve," Colón added.
Flanked by her parents, Colón-Meléndez had some final words for anyone else who reads her story.
"I want people to know that no matter how small you are, you can still make a difference," she said.