Melody Gonzales is the Presidential Appointments Program Director for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 36 of the pre-eminent Latino civil rights, non-profit and advocacy organizations in the nation. Originally from San Diego, CA, Melody attended the University of California San Diego.
When she was growing up, she knew that she always wanted to work in a field where she could help make a difference for her community and one of her biggest obstacles in college was figuring out how to accomplish that goal.
“One day…I saw a flyer on a bulletin board on campus about the Asian American Journalism Association’s summer program for journalism students. I applied for their program and spent an amazing week in Chicago being mentored and trained by professional journalists. I went on to participate in similar trainings with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and doors opened for me to gain wonderful internships in the news industry,” said Melody.
It was programs such as these, the exposure to the field of communications, and to people working hard to lift up social issues which led her to a key turning point that helped place her on her public service career path.
After graduating from the University of California San Diego, Melody spent two years working in San Diego with the local NBC news affiliate as a news writer and with the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce, helping manage a leadership program for local community leaders. She also worked for the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau as General Manager, promoting tourism for San Diego. While she loved the work she was involved with, Melody became intrigued with the idea of going to graduate school when she was in D.C. and came across a brochure that described Georgetown University’s Master of Public Policy program as “a program for do-gooders.”
Melody became more and more excited as she read about the faculty members and students who were working in the nation’s capital as agents of change in all sorts of fields. She took a risk and put all of her eggs in one basket, applied for Georgetown’s graduate program in policy and was thrilled to have been accepted. At Georgetown she focused her studies on international policy development, had exposure to world leaders, and was able to study abroad at Oxford University.
During her Master’s program, she was able to conduct a quantitative research thesis on immigration and crime to help debunk the myth that immigrants are criminals. It was during her work on this thesis, at a point when immigration reform was being debated in the U.S. Senate and communities were mobilizing with rallies across the nation, that Melody decided she needed to be more directly involved in politics. She went on to work for Congressman Xavier Becerra in the U.S. House of Representatives for six years and for several political campaigns including for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Fast forward to present times, Melody currently works for The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA). NHLA mobilizes to advance key policy priorities that impact the Latino community, such as immigration reform, economic empowerment, and more. She is the director of NHLA’s Latino Appointment Program, which launched in January of 2013. The program is designed to help improve Latino representation in government to ensure our voices and perspectives are integrated in key policy-making positions.
For more information on NHLA, visit http://nationalhispanicleadership.org.