As a first-generation child of Colombian immigrants, Melissa Vargas quickly became adept at advocating for her family and community’s needs. When she was eight, she followed in the footsteps of her older siblings and became her mother’s interpreter, helping her navigate the American system and volunteering to help other Latino families when interpretations were needed. Since then, the phrase, “¿Le puedo ayudar?” has served as her moral compass.
For the past 15 years, Melissa has dedicated herself to public service. She has advocated for, developed, and implemented policies at the local and federal level to increase social and economic equality—fighting for affordable healthcare, clean water, renewable energy and jobs, climate action, and family reunification. Before CNC Education Fund, Melissa was District Director for a Los Angeles member of Congress, led Diverse Engagement & Partnerships for the Environmental Defense Fund, and served the Obama Administration in the Office of Public Engagement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Her personal, professional, and volunteering experiences have underlined the burdens the people of the global majority, or people of color, carry because of the systemic imbalance that favors wealth with power. These lessons have strengthened her commitment to CNC Education Fund as it works across the state to engage and empower families to activate their networks to finish the development of unfinished neighborhoods that lack resources.
As the Senior Policy Advisor for CNC Education Fund, Melissa brings her knowledge of organizing, local and federal government, and the U.S. Congress. Within this space, she leads policy research and manages relationships with key stakeholders throughout California and Washington, D.C. She has also guided the expansion of the Lúcete Latina program, which strives to highlight the power of Latina voters to shape public policy and impact elections in California.
Melissa is an alumna of the University of Southern California, where she earned a Master’s in Public Administration, and from Chapman University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Journalism. Melissa serves as a board member of various environmental and civic engagement organizations.