Juwon Melvin (B.A., ’08) has overcome a number of obstacles in his life. He not only credits those who have helped him do so but also has become a helping hand for others to find a path to a better life.
This outstanding fellow grew up between Denver and Aurora in what he calls “a hard-working, blue-collar household.” His mother at times worked two jobs to provide for him and his younger sister. When, during his teenage years, he received an application to attend CSU’s Black Issues Forum, he did not understand the value of the program. However, his mother and a counselor pushed him to complete and submit the application.
Looking back, he says his participation “changed my whole perspective; it changed my life.” In addition to the ideas presented at the Forum, he also got to meet CSU faculty and current students. As a result, CSU was the university he chose to attend.
During his time on campus, Juwon was involved in several student organizations, including the Black Student Alliance, which he participated in all four years. He also was chosen to serve as a Presidential Ambassador and was involved in intramural sports at the Student Recreation Center, where he particularly loved basketball.
Even more notably, Juwon co-founded United Men of Color, a student organization that built community among its participants. They supported one another and tried to help everyone by setting up study halls and volunteering in the community. They also brought programs and speakers to campus and collaborated with other organizations on projects.
Juwon describes his professional path as “an interesting journey.” He and Aaron Madonna (B.A., ’08) co-founded DreamReel Media Company. Its mission was to “enrich the lives of young adults through media and speaking engagements and empower them to change the world.” The two also self-published two books. The first, Destination College, led to speaking to high school students, sharing some first-generation college student experiences and challenges they had overcome. The second book, Help IDK What I Want to Do with My Life, resulted in speaking with young people about how to find their passion.
After graduating from CSU, Juwon worked as a coordinator for the Key Communities and for the Puksta Scholars Program, a philanthropic organization created by the late Harry and Eva Puksta to help support students at CSU, CU, DU, and Metropolitan State University.
Then Juwon “got an itch to travel” and spent six months in South America, which led him and Aaron to start a soap company and, in the process, learn how to build a business. They partnered with H2O For Life and El Porvenir, two organizations doing clean water projects in schools. His next step was working at TIAA, which helps members invest and build toward retirement. He also found time to complete an M.B.A. at Regis University.
After five years in finance, Juwon was ready for a new challenge, so he and wife Eva planned to travel for six months in Southeast Asia. However, COVID forced them to return to the U.S. after visiting only Thailand and Japan. These days, this alumnus enjoys being father to 10-month-old Julian and is planning another company with Aaron.
Juwon stays engaged with United Men of Color and particularly its alumni who live in the Denver area. They try to get together once a year. He is helping them raise funds for an endowed scholarship, inspired by the Puksta Foundation model. They aim to raise $6,000 a year toward the goal of full endowment. These projects are particularly important to Juwon; “I would not have graduated without generous folks donating to scholarship funds.”
These efforts as well as his professional success led to him receiving the CSU Alumni Association Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) award in 2014. He also received the Green Belt: Continuous Improvement award at TIAA. His version of his motivation? “My life is about daily improvement. I’m driven to build great organizations and inspire great, everyday people to change the world.”