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Bringing About a World That Ought To Be | Melissa Perez Colon ’05

"A burning candle” is the first thing that comes to mind when Melissa thinks of Friends, “Maybe because of inner light.”

Melissa’s parents didn't think of Friends as a religious school when she was applying. It wasn’t until after leaving Friends that she came to value silent meeting and how important silence gave her an opportunity to reflect. “Friends did a great job of weaving Quaker values into everything.” Melissa appreciated Friends’ approach to accepting people where they are—“We’re all multifaceted.”

From Melissa’s early days in high school, the Friends’ mission statement and the phrase “bringing about a world that ought to be” resonated with her. It was at Friends that she laid the foundation for her focus on women and gender studies at Syracuse University. Her extra-curricular activities included serving as the team manager for Boys Varsity and JV basketball teams.

Melissa came to Friends through the Prep for Prep program. In her year, she was the only Prep For Prep student in her class. Melissa remembers with fondness former Friends faculty—Drew Adair, Sarah Spieldenner, Karen Jernigan and Margaux Dauteuil. In the Athletics department, Debbie Ferretti and Ray Lacen made significant impressions. Principal Bo Lauder was Melissa’s advisor for her last two years, and her mother still asks about him.

Today, Melissa is the Manager of Strategic Purchasing at KIPP DC, an organization where she has worked for the last eight years. Starting on the campus operations and compliance teams in various capacities, she is now on the Finance Team, where she manages high value contracts, centralized purchasing, contract reviews, and overall purchasing compliance for the 21-charter school network. Melissa says, “You never know what you’re going to end up doing as a career!”

Melissa was introduced to KIPP by her former advisor at Prep For Prep, Renee Chung, who at the time, was a Director of Operations at a KIPP NYC school and brought Melissa on board as a temporary school operations manager. When Melissa’s husband, who was on active duty in the US Army at the time, received orders to work at Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland, they relocated. In her new city, Melissa took a chance and applied for an open position at KIPP DC.

At KIPP DC, Melissa has experienced the KIPP network focusing on incorporating DEI work both at the school and at the headquarters level; the organization is intentional about intersectionality, the work it does and how it affects everyone. Melissa appreciated that she has a Quaker lens through which to view people as they are and not to judge them. Through her role in procurement compliance and strategic business operations, she is in a position to question policy, push back on the rationale for internal protocols, and utilize her voice in team decision-making.

Melissa hopes to continue to do work that impacts people other than herself—she enjoys meaningful work and making a difference in the lives of others. She also hopes to one day return home to New York City and Friends Seminary to show her daughter the place that helped her discover the inner light.


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