Melisa Laelan is a native of the Marshall Islands, born and raised in the capital city of Majuro. At age 17, she decided to leave the Islands to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. Her career in the Army required her to travel globally, which fostered her interest in working with people from different walks of life. After ten years of service, Melisa left the armed forces to attend University of Arkansas. In 2013, she became the first certified interpreter in the nation for Marshall Islanders in the court system. Subsequently, she was appointed to serve on the Arkansas Minority Health Commission, making her the first Marshall Islander to serve on a state agency capacity. Laelan is the founder and Chief Executive Director of Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese (ACOM), a not-for-profit Marshallese-operated organization that focuses on health, leadership, education and culture. Her daily work puts her in the middle of social services and policy advocacy, especially around Marshallese issues. Her relentless advocacy work has led to victory in a 25-year battle in restoring the COFA Medicaid, extending the Medicaid program to over 56,000 COFA migrants living in the United States. Melisa currently lives in Springdale, Arkansas. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family.