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Finding community; finding herself

By helping those around her, a Roadrunner accomplished more than service – she found her voice.

By Cory Phare

December 12, 2016

When Melissa Escobedo started at MSU Denver in 2012, she immediately became involved with Food for Thought, a Denver-based nonprofit combatting childhood hunger. After all, social causes have always been important to her; it just made sense.

It’s who she is. And it was the first step on the transformative journey of finding her voice – by helping others find theirs.

“I truly love helping people overcome their struggles,” said Escobedo. “It’s so important for me to be there, supporting the community.”

In addition to Food for Thought, she has also been involved with Project Homeless Connect, Sowing Seeds (an organic urban garden), and supply drives with Denver Public Schools, to name just a few. Her accolades for her service work are just as numerous, including the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Department of Modern Languages, Denver Scholarship Foundation Scholarship and President's Achievement La Raza Scholarship.

With a double-major in criminal justice and modern languages and a translation certificate in Spanish, Escobedo is a passionate advocate for others finding strength in themselves. That’s not an easy task when it comes to issues like domestic violence. When community members are worried about the repercussions of speaking out, silence is a form of disenfranchisement.

“People who are struggling often stay quiet instead of reaching out to get the assistance they need,” said Escobedo. “I want to stand up so they see there’s people here to help – to be comfortable and not afraid.”

As a first-generation college student, she had to create her own roadmap for navigating the college terrain. The First-Year Success (FYS) program was critical in building a successful foundation. Becoming a lead peer ambassador in 2013, she credits the experience with helping to overcome her shyness and fear of public speaking.

It’s hard for Escobedo to believe she’s graduating, but her hard work and service is paying off. Balancing work at FYS with school and being a single mother, she acknowledged she couldn’t have achieved everything she has without the community around her – especially her family.

“It’s fulfilling the dream – both the one I’ve had since I was little and my mother’s,” said Escobedo. “She’s been there as a support throughout and very proud I’ve made it this far.”

Don’t plan for Escobedo to stop anytime soon, though. She plans to continue her calling in graduate school for legal studies with a concentration in education and social work. And through it all, she traces the clarity of her calling back to the communities she’s helped as a Roadrunner.

“Being here has helped me find my voice,” said Escobedo. She’s realized she belongs here – helping the community and MSU Denver.

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