Melissa Mares is the Director of Early Childhood Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign and a co-convener of the Raise Colorado Coalition and the Growing Our Future Coalition. In this role, she leads the Children’s Campaign’s early childhood portfolio, coordinating policy and coalition development, community engagement, and advocacy for Colorado’s youngest children, their families, and their caregivers. As a co-convener of Raise Colorado, Melissa supports work to advance equitable policies, programs, and practices that help expecting families, pregnant people, infants, and toddlers thrive. Melissa also co-leads the Growing Our Future Coalition, a statewide team that has secured long-term, national funding to transform child care in Colorado, envisioning a future where we truly value caregiving in all the ways it happens in children’s lives.
Melissa first joined the Children’s Campaign as an Early Childhood Policy Fellow in 2020 and became a Senior Policy Analyst in January of 2022. In these roles, Melissa coordinated the community input process that led to the creation of the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. She also supported the transition planning for that department as a member of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission’s Transition Advisory Group (TAG), advocating for the needs of families and providers throughout the transition process.
Prior to joining our team, she taught kindergarten at a Spanish immersion school in Eugene, Oregon. She especially loved teaching and supporting the socio-emotional development of her students, trying to do her part to ensure that they could grow up with the necessary tools to become resilient self-advocates and good friends. Before teaching, she was a Constituent Services Advocate in the Denver office of Senator Mark Udall. She is a graduate of George Washington High School in Denver and earned her B.A. in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and her Master’s in Elementary Education from Stanford University. When not at work, you can find her playing soccer, running, in a yoga class or cooking something new.
Things You May Not Know:Hometown: Denver, Colorado
College: Stanford University
Major: Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity
Graduate School: Stanford University (M. Ed)
Favorite Thing About Life In Colorado: The sunshine, being able to live near family
Favorite Denver Restaurant: Anywhere I can get good, spicy green chile
Best Job You've Ever Had: This one!
Dream Job: Judge on Top Chef or professional soccer player
Job You Wouldn't Do In A Million Years: Mountain climber or tightrope walker
Your Greatest Extravagance: Fancy cheese, fancy chocolate, fancy skin care products
Most Likely To Be Found On A Slow Friday Afternoon: At a yoga class or reading a book
Favorite Colorado Getaway: Anywhere I can camp in the summer
Favorite Sports Team: Colorado Rockies, US Women’s National Soccer Team
Proudest Accomplishment: Teaching kindergarteners friendship skills and watching them become better friends and better communicators
Night Owl or Early Bird: Neither, I like my sleep
Thing You Can’t Live Without: My husband, my dog, my family and friends
Favorite Children's Book: The Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems
Talent You Would Most Like To Have: I’d love to be able to jump
Your Motto: From a poem by Marianne Williamson: “Your playing small does not serve the world.”