Southwest Key


Professional Recognitions:
  • 2022: HABLA (Hispanic Advocates Business Leaders of Austin) Con Orgullo Latina Community Leader Award Nominee
  • 2015: Southwest Key Programs Angel Award Recipient
  • 2012: Ballet Austin Guild’s Women on Their Toes Award Nominee
  • 2010: 2012: Ballet Austin Guild’s Women on Their Toes Award Nominee
  • Ballet East Dance Company
  • Texas Commission of the Arts Dance evaluation panel

Melissa Villarreal serves as the Vice President of Employee and Community Engagement for Southwest Key Programs and works closely with the Board of Directors and Office of the President and Chief Executive Officer.  Since 2008, Melissa has led community events, performance art productions, and developed numerous health and wellness, cultural arts, and continuing education program initiatives for youth and adults at Southwest Key Programs. Her work through Southwest Key is deeply rooted in its mission of “opening doors to opportunity so individuals can achieve their dreams” and proudly serves with her regional team in California, Arizona, and Texas.

Melissa’s tenured dedication has included assisting heavily with the opening of two public charter schools: East Austin College Prep Charter School in Austin, and Promesa College Prep Charter School and a Kaboom playscape in Corpus Christi. Melissa also assisted in the opening of an Emergency Shelter in Ventura, California, Winter Emergency Overflow Shelter in Austin for unsheltered adults, advocacy and support in providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), mobile vaccinations, and food and water, during the COVID-19 pandemic in partnership with the Housing Authority for the City of Austin residencies that included the Santa Rita Courts, Chalmers, and Booker T. Washington in East Austin. Most recently, Melissa opened the Victor R. Garza Community Center at Southwest Key Programs National Headquarters in Austin.  She continues to develop and manage multiple community partnerships to leverage resources for marginalized communities.

Melissa is also the Executive Director of Ballet East Dance Company, a non-profit 501(c) 3 dance organization founded in 1978. An active arts advocate in the East Austin Community, Melissa’s focus is building strong relationships and serving as a catalyst in advocacy for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) representation in the arts and providing equitable access to the arts to underserved populations of Austin. She is also an award-winning choreographer whose works have been commissioned and presented in Hollywood, California, throughout Texas, and New York City. Her recent film works include a dance documentary film, “Lightworkers,” which premiered in April 2022 and a video campaign for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) resilience in partnership with ASHwell Cinic which premiered at the Paramount Theater in June 2022.

In the spring of 2010 and 2012, she was nominated by Southwest Key Programs for the Ballet Austin Guild’s “Women on Their Toes Award.” In December 2015, Melissa received the Southwest Key Programs “Angel Award” for her extensive commitment and dedication of services through the arts in the East Austin Community.  In September of 2022, she was nominated for the HABLA (Hispanic Advocates Business Leaders of Austin) Con Orgullo Latina Community Leader Award.  In March 2023, Melissa joined the Texas Commission of the Arts Dance evaluation panel for the Arts Create grant program.

Prior to joining Southwest Key Programs, Melissa worked for the State of Texas Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the Aged and Disabled, Travis County Constable Precinct 4 Office, and LifeWorks. Melissa has a tenure of volunteering in various capacities and supporting efforts in providing basic needs such as food, shelter, and reunifications for families and individuals, during crisis situational events such as Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey, the COVID-19 pandemic, and winter storms.

Melissa thoroughly enjoys living to serve the community and thrives on witnessing the multiple youth and families which are impacted daily through the reach of the work she and her team are committed to at Southwest Key Programs.