NSU grad finds passion for empowering women in Oklahoma
Growing up, Melissa Walton was never afraid to challenge gender roles. The Northeastern State University graduate was raised by a supportive family who encouraged her to be strong, confident, and to never let stereotypes deter her from accomplishing her dreams.
“I never got to avoid the chores labeled as boy jobs,” Walton said. “Whether that was mowing the lawn or taking out the trash, I was expected to do the same.” She credits her parents for instilling this mindset in her, which led her to a career where she empowers women everyday.
Walton chose to attend Northeastern after receiving an academic scholarship, and she gravitated toward the smaller campus that was close to her hometown.
“After graduating from an extremely small high school in Verdigris, Oklahoma, I wasn’t quite ready to transition to a large university,” Walton said. “NSU was within my comfort zone while still providing me with endless opportunities, friendships and memories.”
One of Walton’s favorite memories on campus was orientation weekend. “The Rookie Bridge Camp was the first memory I have from NSU, and it was one of the best experiences.” I felt at home and found my core group of friends.”
Throughout college, NSU provided Walton with hands-on opportunities in her career field. She commends her professors for being invested in her education and going above and beyond for their students.
“Professor Celia Stall-Meadows took us on a class trip to New York where we got to explore the fashion industry through a business lens,” Walton said. “Experiences like this were once-in-a-lifetime, and I wouldn’t have gotten this chance without NSU.”
After graduating with a degree in family and consumer science with a minor in marketing, Walton began her nonprofit career at Girls Scouts Western Oklahoma, where she worked to help young women flourish and learn to accomplish their goals.
Now, Walton is director of community engagement at ReMerge. This nonprofit organization is a pretrial diversion program offering women involved with the justice system an option to avoid prison and reconnect with their children.
Walton is passionate about the work of ReMerge and is determined to make a difference. “Oklahoma is incarcerating more women per capita than anywhere else in the world,” Walton said. “The past trauma and lack of support these women face aren’t acknowledged, but here at ReMerge, we take that into consideration. The community has counted them out, but they are strong, they are resilient, and they deserve a second chance.”
Walton’s role at ReMerge consists of connecting the nonprofit with community resources, such as funding and employment opportunities. She credits NSU for teaching her the core skills to succeed in her current role.
“Everyday I talk to strangers about ReMerge in hopes that they will resonate with our mission and make a contribution,” Walton said. “At NSU I learned how to meet new people with ease and make lasting connections. It’s a skill which is vital in my career.”