May 09, 2023

Leaders don’t always have the loudest voices. Graduating senior Brian Melendez leaves an impactful legacy of quiet leadership among immigrant, migrant, and commuter students at The Catholic University of America.

A first-generation commuter student supporting himself through college, Melendez understands the difficulties of finding a place of belonging on campus. For him, that place came in the Migrant Rights Coalition, a student operated organization that focuses on the empowerment of migrants, immigrants, refugees, and first-generation Americans, and works to promote their dignity in the campus community. 

The marketing major is a founding member of the coalition and has served as vice president during his senior year. 

“I felt like it was a cause that I could contribute to,” said Melendez, a Washington, D.C., native whose family immigrated from El Salvador. 

As vice president, Melendez helped plan fundraisers to provide supplies for immigrants on the Mexican border. He raised awareness of immigration and migration by planning interactive events throughout the year, including games and speaker series. 

“Immigrants are part of our community here on campus so it’s important to have this club that is bringing some knowledge or awareness to it,” said Melendez. He added that the Catholic Church’s teaching emphasizes the importance of protecting and serving immigrants.

Melendez chose Catholic University because of the financial support he received and because he wanted to stay in Washington, D.C. He takes pride in sharing his native city with University students and has spent much of his time at the University advocating for other commuter students through the Student Government Association.

“I felt there was a lot the school could do to better the college experience of commuters, and I wanted to lead those changes,” he said. 

He also served as associate director of a Student Government Association executive initiative, and created a resolution that was passed this semester. Unanimously supported, the resolution addressed the addition of a commuter page on the University website that will contain relevant information for commuter students.

Melendez’ interest in business strategy supported his efforts in advocating for commuter students.

“I’ve gotten a chance to draw on my marketing skills for research on commuter concerns and brainstorming ideas to resolve those concerns,” he said. “I also strategize better ways to make commuters' opinions heard on campus. They’re a particular segment of the student body with unique needs.”

Javier Bustamente, director of the Center for Cultural Engagement, said Melendez has propelled change on campus. 

“While being a commuter student comes with logistical challenges, (Melendez) makes the best of his opportunities,” said Bustamente. “He uses his experience to advocate for the needs of his peers, never wasting an opportunity to connect others to life on campus. 

The first in his family to graduate college, Melendez takes pride in his academic accomplishments and strives to be the best role model possible for his younger siblings. To finally cross the finish line is an exciting milestone for Melendez, who hopes to carry on his work in the marketing field after graduation.

“(Graduation) means a lot to my family and I,” Melendez said. “One of the biggest takeaways from my time at Catholic was all the brilliant faculty and students I met. I'm looking forward to starting my career and implementing all the knowledge and skills I've developed in my business and politics courses.”