For Melissa Gokmogol, the American Dream describes her life. She was born in Istanbul, Turkey. Growing up, Melissa dreamed of an education that would give her the life she wanted and deserved. However, because of the restrictive rules of entering a college, she lacked opportunities to earn an education and was eventually forced into an arranged marriage immediately after high school. Thus, her dreams of earning an education were put on hold and her reality became one filled with cultural restraints.
The only good thing that came out of her arranged marriage was that it brought her to the United States in 1982. After a short period of time, Melissa fled her abusive husband, despite the fact that she had no money or a place to live. Melissa was trying to survive as best as she could while never giving up her dreams.
Melissa fought hard to improve her circumstances and enrolled in various college courses. She worked as a bank teller and sales representative. In her sales career, she quickly stood out as a determined leader and won several awards. Still hungry for learning, she took a weekend seminar with Landmark Education in 1992. Very quickly, Melissa excelled as a leader and was selected to lead Landmark seminars.
In 2001, Melissa built on those capabilities when she took the risk of starting her own business, an insurance agency. Over the next three years, she grew the agency and merged with a larger agency. At this point, Melissa left the insurance business to launch Evani Collections in 2004. This start-up provided interior design pieces to high-end clients, including four-star resorts and celebrities. By 2009, Evani Collections was a multi-million dollar company.
In 2006, Melissa found another outlet for sharing her story with others as a co-author of Wake Up…Live the Life You Love, a book series which contains short stories about personal growth and achievement.
Melissa has been very politically active and volunteered on many races, including presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial campaigns. Moreover, she is also very active in the Republican Party. Furthermore, she also served as an Indiana delegate.
As a young woman from a foreign country, she saw the value of being involved in the political environment. Melissa gained her citizenship in 1990 and began volunteering in political campaigns. She really caught the political bug while working on President Clinton’s first campaign. The excitement of the election night kept her coming back to campaigns year after year, and as she researched the political party’s platforms, she realized that the Republican Party was a better fit for her personal beliefs and registered as a Republican.
When she closed her business in 2009 due to the economy, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. She enrolled in the El Camino College in California and continued to Purdue University in Indiana. As she had been volunteering in various elections since 1992, deciding on a degree in Political Science was a natural choice. She graduated with honors from Purdue with a Political Science major and a Communications minor in 2014. That same year, the World Turkish Association recognized Melissa for her business success and involvement in American political campaigns. In 2015, she attended Women’s Campaign School at Yale and received her Master’s Degree in Political Management from The George Washington University in 2017.
Melissa’s story is one of fighting for her share of the American dream. Her business success allowed her to have the time and resources to create opportunities for those who would otherwise never have them. In 2006, she started a non-profit called Backpack Angels, which gave rural Turkish girls school supplies and backpacks. Melissa was determined to help young women from her native country find their own pathway to education.
Melissa currently resides in Nevada, where she is active in state and local politics. She is also a member of the Republican Toastmasters and National Speakers Association Las Vegas Chapter. She frequently speaks to political groups, business owners, and women’s organizations across the country.
- Melissa is an immigrant who knows how to persevere.
- She is a woman who lived with an abusive husband, so she knows how to overcome adversity.
- She is a business owner who knows how to persist.
- She went back to college in later life, so she knows how to face a challenge.
All of the obstacles and varied experiences in her life have shaped Melissa into the inspirational person and resourceful political coach she is today.