VICE PRESIDENT OF ADVOCACY & EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, THE CONNECTICUT PROJECT
Mel serves as the Vice President of Advocacy and External Affairs at The Connecticut Project, where he leads a team responsible for the design and implementation of the organization's advocacy and policy agenda, marketing and communications, engagement and mobilization, coalition development and management, and investments in Connecticut’s grassroots advocacy infrastructure through grants to aligned organizations engaging in field organizing and issue-based campaigns.
Mel joins The Connecticut Project with nearly a decade of experience in state and federal issue-based advocacy. Before joining The Connecticut Project, Mel was the Associate Director of Affiliate Advocacy Programs for the American Civil Liberties Union where he assisted with the development and implementation of regional and nationwide issue-based campaigns across the ACLU’s affiliate network. Mel also brings a wealth of strategic and tactical experience in program development and management through his experience as a campaign strategist within the ACLU’s National Political and Advocacy Department and his time serving as the ACLU of Connecticut’s Public Policy and Advocacy Director.
Mel has dedicated his career to investing in Connecticut’s advocacy infrastructure through supporting grassroots lobbying programs, developing new advocacy leaders, providing coaching and mentoring, and developing coalitions. Mel has also served on various state and local boards, task forces, and commissions, including Connecticut’s Racial Profiling Prohibition Project Advisory Board, the Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force, the Council on the Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Record, and Connecticut’s Social Equity Council. Mel was born and raised in Waterbury, CT, and currently lives in Hartford, CT.
Why do you do the work?
Everyone is inherently valuable. It is our collective responsibility to ensure we all have the opportunity and ability to thrive and prosper. My journey in social action begins with my family—a proud legacy of agricultural workers who worked in sugar cane plantations in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico and made their way to Connecticut through the Bronx, New York. In that journey, I heard the stories and witnessed the struggles of hard-working, low-income families combating structural forces intent on limiting their potential. I also heard the stories and witnessed their triumphs in protecting their dignity and self-worth while combating bias, discrimination, and divestment from our communities.
In their own way, my family taught me that compassion and empathy combined with unyielding protection of our dignity and self-worth are the foundational steps for empowerment. I later realized my family had imparted a precious understanding of the fundamental elements of building power with people. I carry on the life lessons imparted to me in my work, striving to invest in and develop strong advocates and leaders willing to boldly fight for fairness, justice, and the protection of the dignity of their communities.
What are some specific places or things you love in Connecticut?
At this point, my social life is run by the whims of my three-year-old. We particularly enjoy visiting Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, Kidcity Children’s Museum in Middletown, the Connecticut Science Center, the Children’s Museum in West Hartford, the playgrounds at Bushnell and Elizabeth parks in Hartford, and “Bella’s House” (my mom’s house) in Waterbury.