Published in the September 12 – 25, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

Melissa Scatena

Leadership Morgan Hill class of 2018 (the best class ever) is about to come to a close with its graduation ceremony at Guglielmo Winery 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17. The time is right to reflect on this wonderful experience during the past nine months. If you’ve never heard of Leadership Morgan Hill before, I encourage you to consider joining the class of 2019.

I joined Leadership Morgan Hill because I had participated in Leadership Salinas Valley 14 years ago and wanted to gain that same intimate knowledge of the community where I currently reside. The Leadership Morgan Hill program teaches you about the history of the city, the community needs and provides experiences of the inner workings of the city. I was so impressed by the time and attention our class received from prominent community leaders, which was a testament to the investment put into the program and the importance the city places on developing future community leaders.

The LMH program provides an excellent opportunity for members to gain a detailed understanding of local history, government, education, health and social services, public safety (even a police ride-a-long), and economic development versus agriculture and environmental concerns. One of the most impactful experiences for me was the excursion to Sacramento. It was fascinating to meet directly with our district’s senator, Bill Monning, to hear from lobbyists on their points of view, and to be recognized on both the State Senate and State assembly floors.

Every year the Leadership class selects a project that will enrich the community. Our 2018 LMH project is called “Art and Inspiration” and centers on the beautification of our city while incorporating positive messages to engage the community.

We selected 11 traffic utility boxes that are owned and maintained by the city of Morgan Hill to be canvases for local artists to create their masterpieces around a positive message selected by our class. Local businesses and nonprofits sponsored each utility box to help fund the project. We are so proud of our class achievement and the positive impact it has had on our community.

I was honored to be nominated as the project manager for our class. The project certainly had its fair share of obstacles along the way, which proved to be wonderful learning experiences. It was the teamwork and extra efforts of my classmates that overcame each obstacle.

From Suman Ganapathy’s determination and passion for quality artwork, to Michael Ozuna’s effective business ethics and humble “roll up your sleeves, get things done” attitude, and Darren Dean’s proficiency in providing the right tools and supplies needed to prep and finalize each box are just to name a few. We have diverse backgrounds and skills in our class where each person was the perfect piece needed to create the finalized puzzle of “Art and Inspiration.”


In my professional life, I am the vice president of Talent Development at HSBC, one of the largest financial services organizations in the world, where I have worked for almost 20 years. My career has always been under the umbrella of human resources and people development and my passion sits with helping others. My volunteer work ranges from volunteering in multiple countries in Africa doing research and helping Zambians receive much needed medical treatment to fundraising for American Cancer Society, and delivering filled backpacks to foster children.

Currently, I sit on the board at my children’s elementary school and serve as the chairperson for the school site council. The Leadership Morgan Hill program has started to look for class members for the 2019 class. I would highly encourage those that are passionate about making a difference in our community to apply. Not only did I learn a tremendous amount about our community and how I can help, but the friendships I made with my classmates along the way are an intangible benefit to the program. I’m excited to see how all of us begin to contribute even more in our community. We’ve already had Poonam Chabra selected to serve as a commissioner on the Library, Culture and Arts Commission — and I know that is just the beginning.

There are so many benefits to the program, but don’t just take it from me. My classmate and friend Denise Chorley, laboratory manager at Saint Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, shared her thoughts with me: “Thanks to what I learned from my program peers and the professionals who presented each month, I have a deeper sense of pride in our community and appreciation for the many people and organizations that power our local economy. Whether you’re looking to learn more about our fine city, develop your leadership skills, or expand your network — Leadership Morgan Hill is the place to be.”

Melissa Scatena is a member of the 2018 Leadership Morgan Hill class.

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