One of the most valuable assets that La Ceiba team members graduate with (beyond transforming into Change-Making Animals) is our vast and deeply talented Alumni network. So, we’re launching a new blog series titled “Where are they now?” to catch up.
Melanie Walter was a founding member of La Ceiba and authored our first business plan. She graduated from Mary Washington in 2009 and went on to William & Mary to earn her law degree and Masters in Public Policy in 2013.
What are you doing now?
I’m a New Jersey Deputy Attorney General. I represent the Department of Community Affairs handling agency advice, litigation, and appellate practice, as well as some regulatory and statutory drafting and analysis. I’m also general counsel to the Local Finance Board, which oversees local government fiscal affairs across the state. I live in Lawrenceville, NJ. I still run, and sing, and hike with my collie, Buddy, most weekends. And, Graham and I are engaged!
What is your most memorable La Ceiba moment?
The day that we distributed La Ceiba’s first loans. The women were all dressed up, and everyone was excited. One of the groups had worked hard to have a prepayment ready before their loan was even distributed. Their families were proud, and we were all so thrilled to see what we’d built, both structurally and relationally. It was so fulfilling, and there was such joy on all sides. It was amazing to see things come to fruition after months of research and debate. It was one of the first times in my life I’d helped a concept become reality, and after we’d surveyed the families, worked on the houses in Villa, and, really, just spent time with the people we were working with, it made it all that much more exciting to be sharing in a new partnership with each of them, and with each other.
How has La Ceiba assisted you professionally/personally?
La Ceiba taught me a great deal about the power our ideas can have. In doing so, it also showed me how to accomplish a seemingly insurmountable task. A big project is like eating an elephant. It can be done, just one bite at a time. You can’t lose focus or quit because the big picture becomes overwhelming. There are always so many little things that can be done that help take the next step toward the larger goal. That mindset has served me well through grad and law school, and now in my professional life. Working with a large group of people with very different ideas, working styles, and approaches in a context where results actually mattered, because they affected lives, was also a significant challenge. The project was too big to just do alone like many student group projects, so we had to depend on each other and work together in a meaningful way. Those skills are invaluable in the working world, and people see that from your resume. Many people leaving college have the ideas and the knowledge, but no idea what to do with them. La Ceiba sets you apart because you’ve already taken that leap. You’re already making things happen.
Why do you continue to be an active member of La Ceiba?
I love the idea of La Ceiba, and knowing that it continues to thrive and change is very exciting and rewarding. It’s wonderful to have a connection to people who are still shaping and changing La Ceiba to reflect new ideas, better information, and the conditions on the ground, and it is empowering to realize the change that La Ceiba has brought to peoples’ lives.
If you want to connect with any of our alumni send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. And, here’s how you can become active in the La Ceiba Community:
1. Become a mentor for current La Ceiba Students.
Thanks! – dr H