skip to Main Content

HHF Spotlight:Melissa Mares

Hispanic Heritage Foundation

By Iliana Sanchez-Meras
Melissa Mares is a 2007 Chicago region Hispanic Heritage Sport Youth Award recipient. After receiving the award, she attended Stanford University and received her Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity with a minor in Modern Languages.

Melissa’s major offered an extensive array of interdisciplinary courses that allowed her to expand her knowledge on a variety of sociological subjects. A minor in modern languages also provided Melissa with the opportunity to expand her Spanish and Italian speaking skills while studying abroad twice: once in Madrid, Spain and another in Florence, Italy. Melissa participated for three years in a tutoring organization called East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring, which helps lower income families. Working with EPATT students helped her realize her passion for teaching and education policy and the importance of offering every student a high-quality education and the tools they need to succeed in society.

After graduating from Stanford in 2011, Melissa moved back to her hometown of Denver, Colorado to work as a Constituent Services Advocate for the U.S. Senate. For two years, Melissa worked directly with the city’s constituents and connected with the Latino community on behalf of the Senate office. Melissa had the opportunity to hear on a day-to-day basis the comments, concerns, and problems of the people in her district. Comments about education specifically caught her attention and continued to motivate her to want to improve the U.S. education system. Although working in a government office was an incredibly important growing experience for her, Melissa felt that she wanted to be in a position to directly help students every day. She hoped to do this by becoming a teacher.

Melissa decided to return to Stanford, and in June of this year, she received her Masters of Education in Elementary Education and a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential. Melissa is currently in Oregon where she will begin her first year of teaching first grade at a Spanish immersion elementary school. Having the opportunity to teach the fundamentals of education to young students gives Melissa the motivation to continue to work hard in order to improve her teaching skills and become an influential mentor. Melissa strongly believes that every student should have the opportunity to gain an equal education and be held up to the same high standards. She hopes to work on building transformative, social-justice oriented curricula that will help uplift struggling students instead of pushing them into the margins.

Melissa has advised young students to ask for help and support when they feel like they are struggling, as there are always resources available. She believes the pressures of being a college student or worrying about not being “good enough” can cause someone to miss opportunities to find supportive mentors, friends, and communities that can truly help a young person grow.

Back To Top