Building better lives: Melissa Radcliff ’90
As the executive director of Our Children’s Place (OCP) in Chapel Hill, N.C., Melissa knows firsthand the benefits of a supportive environment. The nonprofit organization is working to create a residential program for incarcerated women and their young children. The ultimate goal is to open a facility that provides a therapeutic and enriching environment to keep preschool children with their mothers who have been incarcerated for non-violent offenses.
It is her passion to provide a better life for these mothers and children that keeps Melissa and her colleagues motivated. “Our organization’s mission is to provide services to a segment of the population that has been overlooked,” she says, noting that research shows children who have an incarcerated parent are six times more likely to end up in the criminal justice system themselves. “We want to send a message to these women that they are valuable.”
Melissa says it was her time at Bryant that gave her the skills and the enthusiasm to pursue this vision. In the classroom, she learned the ins and outs of business, developed computer skills, and sharpened her public speaking talents.
She was also active in the campus community through the Parent’s Weekend committee and the student newspaper The Archway. “My involvement on campus taught me how to manage my time, coordinate volunteers, prioritize multiple requests, deal with negative feedback, and celebrate successes,” she says. “I felt as though I developed a better sense of who I was and where I was going by the time I graduated.”
During her senior year, Melissa secured a position through the Rhode Island State Government Internship Program and had the opportunity to see several nonprofit organizations in action. It was there she realized that she could combine her passion to make a difference with her business background.
“I saw nonprofit organizations being run by people with hearts of gold who didn’t really understand the business side of the organization,” says Melissa. “I remind people that nonprofit organizations also deal with human resources, accounting, marketing, and technology, as well as keeping costs down, seeking additional sources of funding, reporting to a board, and comprehending the economic climate.”
This month marked Melissa’s two-year anniversary working with OCP. “Helping to build a non-profit organization essentially from the bottom up is challenging, and your efforts may not always be recognized by others,” says Melissa. “However, the work we do to help children and women create a better future is extremely rewarding.”
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