By Jennifer Bennerotte, contributor
The Rotary Club of Edina presented Melody Zhou with its 2021 Chrysanne Manoles Women in Leadership Award at its May 6 meeting.
Reflecting society in 1905, the Rotary organization was limited to male members and remained so officially until 1989, when the Council on Legislation, Rotary’s parliament, voted to eliminate the male-only provision, opening up membership to qualified women across the world. However, the forward-thinking Rotary Club of Edina welcomed its first female member, Chrysanne Manoles, a year earlier in 1988. Manoles continues to be active in Rotary.
In Manoles’ honor and to celebrate the work of women in the community, the Rotary Club of Edina established an annual women’s leadership award in 2008. Previous winners include Dr. Laurel Wills, Ann Byrne, Donna Tilsner, Katey Taylor, Kim Foote, Kris Marshall, Lauren Morse-Wendt, Lexi Reed Holtum, Laura Hope Melton and Kathy Rendleman.
Outside of her day job running a China-focused travel agency, Zhou is the principal of the Minnesota International Chinese School (MICS), a nonprofit weekend school based in Edina that provides classes and tutoring in multiple subjects. Over the course of a decade, and often working without monetary remuneration, Zhou built MICS into one of the leading weekend Chinese schools in the area. The mission of MICS goes far beyond that of a weekend Chinese school. Using MICS as a platform, Zhou has also launched many free forums and, more recently, webinars, on a wide variety of subjects ranging from academics to finance and parenting.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, MICS provided more than 250 hours of free one-on-one tutoring to 40-plus students from more than 30 families. The services that MICS provides help Zhou’s community achieve equity of resources that, due to cultural and language barriers, they would otherwise not achieve. Under her leadership, MICS held free personal protective equipment (PPE) giveaway events in Edina, and donated PPE directly to multiple police stations, fire stations and medical facilities.
MICS also hosts one of the largest annual Lunar New Year celebrations, often visited by politicians and business leaders outside of the Chinese community, serving as a bridge between the Chinese and greater local communities.
“All of Melody’s community efforts revolve around bringing equity and benefit to the local Chinese community, while simultaneously building and strengthening bonds of friendship with the greater community both in Edina and beyond,” said Justin Lipsky in his letter nominating Zhou for the award.
For winning the 2021 Chrysanne Manoles Women in Leadership Award, Zhou received flowers, a plaque and a Paul Harris Fellowship from the Rotary Club of Edina.