Melissa has 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.
Melissa's experience in foster care sparked her determination to improve the child welfare system. Melissa's first speaking engagement was at the age of 18 as a Youth Ambassador for the Temecula Foster Youth Task Force. To date, she has conducted hundreds of trainings and presentations to foster parents, social workers, school staff, volunteers and community partners. Her advocacy efforts have included collaboration with FosterClub, Casey Family Programs, the National Foster Youth Institute, Foster Youth in Action, Foster Care Alumni of America and numerous local agencies. Melissa is a member of the National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council. In 2017, she met with Commissioner Jerry Milner to lift up key priority issues voiced by foster youth. Melissa currently works as an Educational Liaison for foster youth in San Diego County. Melissa believes education is the great equalizer. In the future, she plans to pursue a Master’s degree so that she can take her advocacy to the next level.