As a strong-willed servant leader who wears her heart on her sleeve, Melissa Goodman paves a personal legacy each and every day. Full of passion and empathy, she strives to make the world a better place. Her personal motto is: “Do something you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Through many periods of personal reflection and growth Melissa has persevered in living a meaningful, fulfilling life.
Growing up just north of Topeka, in the Seaman school district, Melissa spent a lot of time outside on the land of her rural childhood home developing a sense of independence. Throughout high school she had aspirations of becoming a chef and completed vo-tech at Washburn Technical Institute during her last two years of high school. She continued her studies at Johnson County Community College on a tennis scholarship. After working in the restaurant industry for a few years, she quickly realized her love for food and creating it was not enough to sacrifice missed holidays and special occasions that are often required in the food service field. Melissa worked various jobs while searching for the right career path, her favorite during this time was working on a horse farm. She was able to interact with and ride horses while being challenged both personally and professionally.
Melissa eventually returned to college, attending Washburn University. While completing her general requirements, she continued to self reflect in search of the right career path. Understanding her natural trait of being inquisitive and having a sense of curiosity in regards to criminal behaviors, she was drawn to the criminal justice field. Thus completing both a bachelors and masters in Criminal Justice. While studying, she completed an internship through Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex and quickly found working with juveniles was not for her. Looking at her options in the criminal justice field, she stated, “I knew that I did not want to assist in putting people into jail, prison or work with those in correctional facilities, as being in such institutions can be depressing.” Melissa began to look at assisting individuals in their transition out of such institutions through social work and reintegration services. Luckily, a friend suggested she come work with her at Mirror, a federal reentry center.
After nine years of growth and experience at Mirror, Melissa holds the position of the Director of Federal Programs. As director, she manages operations of the facility which entails the flow of residents, supervising staff and ensuring all requirements of the contract between the agency and the Federal Bureau of Prisons are met. Mirror serves as a program for those transitioning out of federal prison or are on federal supervision. Individuals who reside at the reentry center are to focus on developing their hierarchy of needs; such as finding a place to live, obtaining employment, addressing medical or mental health needs, and developing skills necessary for a successful reintegration back into society. Melissa’s position can be challenging, yet is deeply honored to serve this population. Her favorite part of the job is to interact with residents. She explains, “Being able to see someone interact with their family as a lot of times people don’t get a chance to see their loved ones the entire time they’re incarcerated…It’s this huge part of someone’s life that you get to be a part of. It’s very humbling and rewarding.”
Melissa has a strong urge to serve others, her contributions to the community continue as a board member of Team Black Foundation. In 2015, Blake Cazier, the son of Melissa’s long time friend, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia; a rare form of blood cancer. Following the passing of Blake, the foundation was formed. Their website states, “The mission of the Team Blake Foundation is to assist in reducing the burden of childhood cancer and other life-threatening illnesses on children and their families.” Through this work, Melissa has learned to, “be gracious for the time you have and the people who are in your life.”
Blake’s mother Jacyln Cazier has a hard time putting how wonderful Melissa is into words, she had the following message:
Melissa hopes to continue making her mark on the world. She looks forward to continuing to serve her community through her work with Mirror. Within the next few years Melissa wishes to see a change in funding, specifically on a state level, for reentry centers that would assist individuals with their reintegration. With a fire in her soul to help children and families, she also plans to continue serving through Team Blake. Continuously creating lasting memories that keep her tank full, she would never second guess pouring herself into her two passions. Melissa strives to continue learning and developing her leadership skills to further her abilities of making a difference. Full of goodness, Melissa Goodman.