Year Joined MKLM: 2013
Country: El Salvador
Focus: Education, Sustainable Development
People Served: Children and women, mostly single mothers
Project Goal(s): Help women to earn a living for themselves and their families
Melissa serves at ACOMUJERZA, in El Salvador, a cooperative that gives women, mostly mothers, an opportunity to earn a living by producing and selling clothing. The women work together to improve the community. Through the cooperative, she offers children Art and English classes. Melissa joined the ACOMUJERZA team in September of 2016 as an administrative consultant. She brings her social media and management skills to the cooperative, as well as sparking thoughtful questions about product development. Melissa’s years of experience in campus ministry, team building and counseling help the cooperative evaluate themselves and work together as a team. Melissa translates materials, and helps maintain the web site and social media. She is currently teaching English to two members of the cooperative.
Melissa is from North Huntingdon, PA, but recently lived in Long Beach, NY. She has a Bachelor of Science in Communications from La Roche College, PA, and a Master of Education in School Counseling from Manhattan College, NY. She was Director of Campus Ministry at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn. At La Roche, Melissa volunteered to advertise, promote and organize college events. At Bishop Loughlin, she assisted the Technology Director with social media, planned and chaperoned community service projects, and was involved in retreats. She was a Lasallian youth group co-moderator and cultivated youth leadership and community service, and did fundraising for a sister school in Kenya. At St. Ignatius Martyr Parish, Melissa served on the parish council.
In El Salvador, Melissa initially lived and worked in La India, a semi-rural community outside of Cojutepeque. Poverty was endemic and many homes lacked electricity and/or running water. Families struggled to make ends meet. Parents were often absent or working. This led to children spending their days on the streets and they became vulnerable to the gangs that recruited in the area. She helped students to stay in school by promoting reading and literacy. Melissa encouraged children and youth to develop their unique gifts, talents and teamwork skills through recreational activities such as a games, other dynamics and painting. She provided education, personal development and recreational opportunities to the underserved children and youth through San Juan Bautista Parish.
Melissa and her husband, Peter, have two children, Elijah and Evangelina. They are all serving as Maryknoll Lay Missioners in El Salvador. In 2017, Melissa was inducted into the Distinguished Alumni Circle of La Roche College.