Melissa N. Watson serves as the Executive Director of Emerge South Carolina. Her passion for political equality and advocating for social justice led her to devote her career to improving the lives of those who have been underserved and denied equity in South Carolina.
Melissa is a South Carolina native, born and raised in Columbia where she was educated in the public schools of Richland County. Growing up in a low resource community, she experienced first-hand the effects of economic barriers that prevent individuals from cultivating a household or life of self-sustainability. Understanding that a lack of resources expanded outside of her home, and into communities state-wide, she was motivated to plant her educational grounding in Public Health and Social Work. She has spent the last decade working in community organizations providing education and tools while also advocating to improve laws and policies to decrease disparity and increase opportunity. Deciding to be an active agent for the change she wanted to see, Melissa was led to a career in politics—where she could directly influence the face of government and bring diversity and equality to elected officials and decision makers.
Prior to Emerge South Carolina, Melissa served as the Director of Programs and Operations and previously the Director of Training and Education for a statewide nonprofit focused on reducing poverty. She worked for several years in prevention in the Alcohol/Drug, HIV/STD, and Diabetes fields.
Melissa is a veteran of the United States Army Reserves and the daughter of two United States Army Veterans. She has been a faithful member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated since 2005, where she has led a number of committees and projects such as Social Action, Delta GEMS and Delta Academy.
Melissa has been involved in politics and advocacy through her roles with Delta and her participation in other community organizations. She has had the pleasure of representing her chapter during the annual Delta Day at the State Capital and Delta Days in the Nation’s Capital. She has organized candidate forums, political meet and greets, advocacy education and workshops on urgent political issues for the community.
Melissa is a 2017 graduate of the Modjeska Simkins School of Social Justice, a 2016 alumna of Leadership South Carolina and a graduate of the Sisters of Charity Nonprofit Leadership Program. She is a proud alumna of The University of South Carolina where she received a Master of Public Health, Master of Social Work, certificate in Drug and Addiction Studies and Bachelor of Arts in Experimental Psychology and Criminology and Criminal Justice. She has a certificate in Project Management from Duke University. She is also a Licensed Master Social Worker, a certified Mental Health First Aid Trainer and a certified Master Trainer through the Association of Talent Development.
Her personal mantra is “Saving the world, one person at a time.” She resides in Columbia, SC with her two dogs, Midnight and Bandit and spends her free time trying to be the best aunt ever.