Youth Empowerment Project
Melissa is a Founder and the Executive Director of the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP). Melissa received her B.A. from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec and her M. Ed from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Melissa first came to New Orleans through Teach for America (TFA) in 1998, and she returned to the city after receiving her Master’s Degree in order to reform the state’s juvenile justice system. In 2004, Melissa founded YEP to address the lack of services available to at-risk and justice-involved youth. YEP was the first juvenile re-entry program in the state of Louisiana and under Melissa’s leadership, the organization has grown to be the largest and most comprehensive organization providing mentoring, education, enrichment and employment readiness skills to underserved, disconnected New Orleans youth. Melissa has earned national recognition as an expert in the juvenile justice and youth development fields and she regularly speaks on a range of issues that include innovative and effective strategies for engaging vulnerable youth and non-profit sustainability. Melissa currently sits on several local boards that include the Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR), the New Orleans Crime Coalition and New Pathways NOLA. Among the accolades she has received, Melissa was a Young Leadership Council Role Model (2014), she was the Zurich Classic Community Impact Recipient (2015), the New Orleans Bar Association presented her with the Liberty Bell (2017) and Gambit Weekly recognized her as the New Orleanian of the Year (2016).