20 Years. 20 Stories. | No. 6 with Meli

Meli’s journey from free floating polyp to blooming sea anemone

Meli found Outdoor Outreach in 2017 and went on a snorkeling trip. Little did she know that this trip would introduce her to passion, marine biology. But, Meli’s journey of success was not easy and full of hardships. In telling us her story, she mentions how she was greatly affected by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) growing up. 

“I can’t simply see the police and feel safe like most people can; I can’t slip up or take chances as others do. I’m used to doors being slammed in my face and people saying the words that I hate so much… “You can’t do this because you’re not an American citizen.”

“I have no say in what goes on around me and sometimes I feel like plankton, just a free floater, going whichever way the ocean currents take me, and never being able to swim against it. One of the worst things about all this is that people that I have never met or ever will meet, get to decide MY fate, and they try to tell my story. Politically, socially, and economically, people label me and then get to decide what happens.”

Meli also tells how her first snorkeling trip was truly eye opening. She was nervous because she had never snorkeled before let alone seen a fish in the wild. When she went in the water and opened her eyes, she saw a Garibaldi and was fascinated. After this trip, she was always the first one in the water and the last one out.  

“Without my first snorkeling trip, I never would have known that this was my true passion. And I will forever be grateful to the people that work at this amazing place for inspiring me.”

Today, Meli continues on her path to success. She gained friends, family, perspective, and a voice through our Lead programs and is currently studying marine biology at UCSD.

“Outdoor Outreach is a safe haven for me… For once, I feel like my voice is heard. Outdoor Outreach is a family, and we will do anything to help each other prosper. Here, we are not plankton, but instead, sharks who rule their worlds.”

Outdoor Outreach is a San Diego-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides adventure-based youth development programs serving 1,700 vulnerable and at-risk youth each year. Through those programs, we’re helping youth build resilience in the face of challenges, and confidence in their power to make a difference.


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