Melissa was born in Kahaluʻu and grew up in Hahaʻione Valley. She is the third of four children.
Her favorite childhood memories were spending summer vacations with her cousins and younger sibling at her grandparents’ house in Wailuku, Maui.
A graduate of the Kamehameha Schools in 1993 – the centennial anniversary of Queen Liliʻuokalani yielding her throne under protest – Melissa received both a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in social work with a concentration in Multi-Ethnic Practice from the University of Washington. She developed a cultural orientation curriculum for newly resettled Sudanese refugees, the “Lost Boys,” and worked in social justice and environmental justice programs for youth.
Over the span of her career, Melissa has enjoyed working with children, youth, vulnerable adults, families, and communities. She has provided social services, counseling, therapeutic services, and program management in various non-profits, including Pālama Settlement, Hale Kipa, Holy Names Academy, Parents And Children Together, Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaiʻi, and Kalihi-Pālama Health Center. Prior to joining LT, Melissa managed special projects and initiatives at Papa Ola Lōkahi, the Joyful Heart Foundation, and the Hawaiʻi Primary Care Association.
Melissa has previously served as a member of Hoʻowaiwai Na Kāmaliʻi’s Honolulu Advisory Council and is currently a volunteer with the Domestic Violence Action Center. Her professional interests include addressing the needs of marginalized and impoverished communities, trauma-informed care, mental health and substance use, and taking a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.
Melissa spent many years as a canoe paddler. She has raced in the Puget Sound and Columbia River, but enjoys paddling in Hawaiʻi the most. She is proud to have crossed the Molokaʻi channel two times in Na Wahine O Ke Kai, as well as being in the Team Hawaiʻi crew at Vaa Hine in Tahiti.
Melissa loves to spend time with her daughter, Mikaella. She is very involved in her church community, and likes watching sunrises and sunsets, going to the movies and film festivals, and trying out new restaurants with her foodie friends.