I am an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. I attended John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, struggled with my English, and became a United States citizen in 1983. My teachers may remember catching me asleep at my desk after working nights at the fried chicken store, but I graduated a semester early.
Wanting to leave New York City and its distractions far behind, I left for Buffalo State College in January, 1985. I arrived in the middle of a blizzard, a first for this island girl, with $33 in my pocket. The money was a gift from one of my high school teachers.
I was determined to be the first in my family to achieve a college degree. At Buffalo State I studied criminal justice and worked in a nursing home to make ends meet. I also volunteered as a clerk in the municipal court. After graduating, I attended law school at the State University of New York at Buffalo on an equal opportunity scholarship. There, I continued my passion for criminal law and graduated in 1991.
A Career in the Law
My first legal job was at the Philadelphia Public Defender Service and I later moved to the Washington, D.C. area where I married Markian Melnyk, my law school sweetheart. Most of my legal work has been in public interest jobs. I worked as a guardian for children in the foster care system and both as a court appointed defense attorney and as an Assistant United States Attorney, prosecuting criminal cases and arguing appeals in Washington, D.C.
I have seen the effects of crime on families, businesses and neighborhoods. Violence also touched me personally when the father of my niece and nephew was killed. I helped to support my sister after that tragedy and to raise and educate her children. The oldest two are now in college. When I say that I support our police and community centers and programs that keep young adults off the streets, those are not empty words. I also have learned that strong families are important to building a healthy community. These are the values that I carry with me.
Family and Public Service
When I was blessed with a son, Camilo, and later twin daughters, Alejandra and Katerina, I left the world of paid employment to raise my children. All mothers, and some fathers too, know that caring for children is a wonderful 24/7 job. But I liked being involved in the community and I joined Casa de Maryland, a non-profit social services organization, when I was invited to serve on its board of directors. In 2003, I jumped into politics when I was elected to the College Park City Council. In 2005, I won re-election. In November 2006, I was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates.
I have lived in Hyattsville and College Park for the past 13 years and I am proud of the way I have represented my neighbors on the City Council, in front of County government, and in Annapolis arguing on their behalf. I do not take for granted the trust that they have put in me. I intend to represent your interests in Annapolis with an independent and strong voice, not the voice of special interests.