Melissa is a native Southern Californian, downtown Los Angeles resident, and a proud Latina. At the age of 3, she was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which in turn contributed to her glaucoma, uveitis, and cataracts. Her blindness came on gradually, but Melissa persevered through it all, collecting a B.A. in Liberal Studies from CSU, San Bernardino, teaching 1st/2nd grade bilingual classes, and managing projects for a global Internet consulting firm before her blindness prevented her from going further. Never one to take things lying down, Melissa showed her trademark can-do attitude and with the support of family and friends started attending the Braille Institute. This marked the beginning of her path towards independence, leading to Melissa getting her guide dog Anya from Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Melissa’s world has continued to open up since – she serves as an active volunteer for Guide Dogs for the Blind, for the Los Angeles Southwest Guide Dog Raisers, and of course, the Braille Institute. Baldy for the Blind has been the latest step in Melissa’s quest to prove no mountain is too big – figuratively or literally – for her to scale, regardless of her blindness. She thanks all her family and friends for their support, but most of all her guide dog Anya and her husband of over 12 ½ years, David for always being there, no matter what life has in store.