A group of young males await to read the daily happenings of Oswego High School to about 2,800 young students. In this group, an actor is practicing a monologue, a leader strategizing where him and his team will go next, a singer trying to find the perfect note, an avid Adam Sandler fan thinking about his next project, a comic writing his next routine, and a student diligently working on his homework. The time comes, and they all come to the mic. However, when they speak, only one voice comes out.
That voice is the one and only Mark Melton.
If you’ve ever walked around OHS, there’s a chance you’ve seen Mark Melton greet you with a smile. If you’ve ever sat in an OHS class during second period on a Friday morning, you’ve heard Mark Melton share the announcements of the day with unrivaled and undying enthusiasm. If you decide one day that you want to see a play or musical performed at OHS, there’s a good chance you’re going to see Mark Melton standing firmly on center stage. If you decide to go to a choir concert, you’re going to see—and hear—Mark Melton singing his heart out. If you attend a band concert, you are not going to see Mark Melton playing, but you still may see him helping out backstage. In fact, you may see Mark Melton helping with a lot of things around the community.
Mark Melton was also a contestant for the 2019 Mr. Oswego, and he was voted the king of this year’s homecoming.
He does quite a few things.
“It’s all stuff that I enjoy doing,” Mark says. “Sometimes, it’s a lot of stuff, but it’s like, if it’s stuff you enjoy doing, then why not do a lot of it?”
Of course, Mark is a very scholarly student, too. He is in the National Honor Society and was recently named as one of 69 ISAC State Scholars in the school. Aside from his massive contributions to the Oswego community, many people know Mark as a very compassionate and caring person.
“He’s a very funny and charismatic guy,” junior Autumn Haberkorn-Mendez says. “He’s so outgoing and understanding. He doesn’t really judge, and he accepts people for who they are.”
Everybody at the school either knows Mark, or knows of Mark, but this doesn’t matter to him. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never talked to him before, or if you’ve known him for your entire life. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your background is. It doesn’t matter because regardless, Mark will treat you like one of his dearest friends. He could have known you for three days, and it would sound like he’s been talking to you for years.
“I sat next to [Mark] in honors chemistry because I didn’t know anyone else in the class,” senior Kaileigh Frye says. “One time, we were doing a project with acid—not the acid that can harm you—and he stuck his hand in the beaker and pretended that it was burning him.”
Mark says that he has five inspirations in his life. Mr. Frank Tieri, the choir teacher here at OHS; senior Tristan Ramos, his best friend; senior Danny Rothe, another friend of his; Jim Melton, his father; and actor Adam Sandler.
“Once we hit the threshold of ‘Oh, Mark can watch like, movies with swears in them,’ [and] then my dad kind of raised me on Adam Sandler there and out,” Mark says. “I really enjoy that guy. I think from what I can tell—I’ve never met him—but he seems like a great person. I like that he’s just doing whatever he wants, like, with his buddies. It seems like he’s enjoying life. I think he makes some good movies, he definitely makes some not-good movies, but they’ve all got heart, if you ask me. They’ve all got something.”
Much like Sandler, Mark aspires to write and star in movies, as well as theatre.
“I’d like to do both a lot,” Mark says. “For me the theater thing, the focus is more just on acting. I do enjoy theatre and film, and maybe just because I’ve done more theatre in high school, and I haven’t done much film stuff because that’s not as available on the high school level, but I do see myself getting into like, the film and TV aspect of it. Maybe more so than the theater, but who knows, we have time.”
He does, however, realize the difficulties of entering the industry.
“[The industry] is a tricky thing to get into, apparently. I don’t know if you know,” Mark says. “In 10 years, I think I’ll be six years into my career as a struggling artist.”
His aforementioned best friend, Tristan Ramos, believes he has a future on the silver screen.
“In 10 years’ time, he’s making movies and doing it well,” Ramos says.
Tristan is not the only person who thinks so.
“He could be president,” Haberkorn-Mendez says. “If not, then I’ll see him on the movie screen for sure.”
Along with his many friends, Mark considers himself to be very close with his father.
“I was really close with my dad growing up, and still, we’re like super close,” Mark says about his father, Jim. “We just think the same way about a lot of stuff. Probably because he raised me, so, some of that happens, then we end up being just very similar.”
Jim Melton, who recently became an educator here at OHS, used to be a “huge sports guy” in high school, according to Mark. A trait that, admittedly, was not passed down to him.
“I was not very good, I don’t think, at the sports,” Mark says. “I did all the park district sports when I was a little kid, but I was not very athletically-inclined. I would put the work in, and I would like, try, but it was like, ‘this is not really working out for me’”
Around that time, Mark Melton discovered Limelight Theatre Company, a local community theater company that felt a little more welcoming to the young Mark. Despite his future not being as he had expected, his father still fully supported his interests and continues to do so to this day.
“[My dad has] immersed himself into that world,” Mark says. “One thing that I would hope to carry with my kids is like, whatever they’re doing, making that like, what I like to do.”
As well as his actual family, Mark considers himself to be extremely close to his choir and drama family.
“It’s hard to imagine having a crew that isn’t that crew, like later,” Mark says.
Mark is a senior now. As his graduation day rapidly approaches, he becomes more and more aware of the legacy he’s going to leave. He hopes to leave a legacy of “being able to do the work that you’re supposed to do, like, putting your all into stuff, while still enjoying that, and making that enjoyable for other people.”
Legacy is a tricky thing to think about when you’re someone like Mark Melton. Someone who is seemingly one in a million. When you’re a person, the likes of which has never seen before, it’s hard to figure out what you’re legacy is going to be because you would have to figure out just who you are. Which one of those young men is he? Is he some of them? Is he all of them? Is he any of them at all? These are all straining questions, but Mark feels like he has it somewhat figured out.
He is one of those young men. Just not one that you’ve heard about. He walks through the halls, goes to class, and happens to partake in a couple of hobbies here and there. Yet, like most people, he walks through life completely unnoticed, but he is the one man that is the most authentic reflection of Mark Melton.
Who is he? Just your everyday kind of a guy.
“I’m just trying to do well at stuff, and do right by other people,” Mark says. “The main goal: I’m just trying to live out whatever God wants me to do.”