Employment and Assistance Worker

Melanie is a leader who implements mind-heart actions. She currently is not in a typical leadership position. However, that doesn’t matter for the impact she has had, nor for the example of leadership she has shown to the people around her. Let me tell you why I think she’s an amazing leader.

For the past eight years, Melanie has mentored four girls, a group of friends, who have had little life supports. She has been like a mother to them. They even call her “Mom.” At times, she has put her life at-risk to save them, even from themselves. She has stood up for them, even when they didn’t want her to and when others wanted to keep them in the darkness. She has encouraged them to finish high school and make better life choices. Of course, they needed to do the work as well. To fight the inner battles to see their true identities as lovable and capable. Teens with hurtful identities have been told lies about themselves and it takes so much more persistence to shake those lies off and to see themselves as they truly are. When Melanie first met them, and for years after, they didn’t believe they were lovable or capable. I can say with confidence that these young women would not be where they are today, or even alive, without Melanie’s love, intervention, and mentoring.

These four girls are only one example of the many times Melanie has put mind-heart leadership into action for struggling youth. I have actually lost count.

Her current work position is within government providing financial assistance to help people in need. This is a group of people that society often doesn’t understand. The people that Melanie helps can be asking for anything from rent and grocery support, government issued ID, access to medical care, medications, or someone to call for help because they are close to ending their own life. Navigating these wide range of difficult issues takes a breath of knowledge of policies, procedures, resources, etc., and lots of heart. Normally people within government say their ‘hands are tied’ when met with a difficult circumstance, and sometimes that is the case. But Melanie has shown time and again that having the knowledge to navigate the resolution of those issues can save lives. The mind-heart leadership she exhibits is the passion to learn all that she can, listen to her clients, and believe there is a way to provide meaningful support. Recently, a woman wanting to change her inhumane circumstances was able to make a significant leap in the right direction because Melanie worked with her for months to provide meaningful support. I only know the vague details of this story, because I had worked on a policy that eventually led to this woman being able to change the trajectory of her life when did. What Melanie didn’t highlight, nor do I think she considered it, is that she wouldn’t have been able to help the woman if she didn’t bring her mind-heart to every client encounter. She was just genuinely excited for the change in this woman’s life.

I honestly could go on and on.

I nominated Melanie, because being a person who is with those who are facing heartbreaking, and often scary, circumstances and helping them find their way out, is a sign of an amazing human.

– Melissa Zacharias, Senior Policy Analyst