Melissa Melendez (Schneider)
Class of 1986
In 2008, political outsider Melissa Melendez was elected to the Lake Elsinore, Calif., City Council in an upset victory amongst a crowded field of eleven candidates. Melissa was elected by her colleagues to serve as Mayor in her second year on the Council. A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Melissa entered the United States Navy upon graduating high school. She attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., where she spent a year and a half in a Russian language immersion course, becoming a fluent Russian language speaker.
Melissa then became one of the first women approved by the U.S. Navy to fly aboard EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft overseas, conducting intelligence-gathering operations in partnership with our allies. She served her country with honor and distinction as a Russian translator for ten years during the height of the Cold War, as well as during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. While serving in the Navy, she received numerous awards for her strategic acumen, operational insight, professionalism and impeccable leadership skills.
While serving in the Navy full-time, Melissa also attended college full-time in the evenings, and received her BA in History and Political Studies from Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii. After the Navy, Melissa took an academic advisory position at Chaminade University for two years before deciding to begin her own business. She then formed her own successful transcription company, contracting with the Chief of Naval Operations, and providing services to the Secretary of the Navy as well as other top-level Pentagon officials. Her belief in the importance of being a lifelong learner was the motivation behind continuing in her education. Melissa attended the Murrieta Campus for the University of Phoenix for two years, graduating with her MBA in June of 2008.
Melissa has five children with her husband of 15 years, Nico Melendez, who works for the Department of Homeland Security as the Pacific Region Public Affairs Manager. Nico is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy, having served 10 years on active duty around the world as a journalist and public affairs officer.
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