Melissa had dedicated her life and career to empowering foster youth. One of her earliest memories is being woken up in the middle of the night at the age of 5, removed from her home and taken to Polinsky Children's Center. Anxiety over years of instability bouncing from foster home to foster home gave rise to an unshakable passion to reform the child welfare system. By the time she ‘aged out’, she had found her calling.

Melissa graduated from San Diego State University in 2014 on the Dean's List with a double major in Psychology and Sociology, and a minor in social work. Her first speaking engagement was at age 18 as a Youth Ambassador for the Temecula Foster Youth Task Force. To date, she has conducted hundreds of training and presentations to foster parents, social workers, school districts, volunteers and community partners. Her experience with the FosterClub All-star internship, NFYI Congressional Shadow Day, FYA Leaders For Change Conference, and a San Diego-based alumni advocacy group called L.E.A.P. have each grown her ability to advocate on a national platform. She shares her story as part of San Diego County’s foster parent licensing program, providing caregivers with tools and techniques to understand and support their youth. She also serves as an Educational Liaison for foster youth through the San Diego County Office of Education, recognizing the power that a group of dedicated people have to change the outcomes for those who are disadvantaged. Melissa believes education is the great equalizer. In the future, Melissa plans to pursue a master’s degree to take her advocacy to the next level. Traveling, snowboarding, music and the ocean are some of Melissa’s favorite things.