Melanie R. Cawthon began her professional journey by earning a Bachelor of Business Management with a focus on leadership and administration from the University of Texas San Antonio in 1998. Still trying to decide what career she wanted for herself straight out of college, she joined a temp agency and, in 1999, was placed with the nonprofit organization Alpha Home, where she worked as an administrative assistant and fundraising coordinator until 2002. Having always had a passion for service and helping others, Ms. Cawthon found herself quite at home in the field and began pursuing a career in fundraising and development.
Furthering her skills, Ms. Cawthon achieved additional certification in nonprofit management, as a festival and events associate, and from American Humanics and the University of Texas San Antonio. From 2002 to 2003, she served as the director of communications for Baptist Child & Family Services before becoming the community relations director for Methodist Mission Home, now known as Providence Place, until 2005. Her next position saw her working as the associate development director for Mission Road Ministries from 2005 to 2010, and she spent 2009 to 2010 concurrently holding the position of development director for ChildSafe as well. During this time, Ms. Cawthon completed graduate studies at Our Lady of the Lake University and graduated with a Master of Science in nonprofit management in 2009.
Briefly serving SAMMinistries as the director of development services in 2011, Ms. Cawthon spent 2011 to 2017 as the education and development vice president of Reaching Maximum Independence, Inc. In this role, she helped to establish the Fiesta Especial Royal Court, a leadership and life skills program for individuals with disabilities, something she considers one of the absolute highlights of her career. Throughout this period, Ms. Cawthon additionally proffered her expertise as a consultant for nonprofit organizations between 2010 and 2017.
In 2017, Ms. Cawthon joined Disabilitysa as the executive director, having originally helped to found the organization a decade prior. A disability advocacy organization, Disabilitysa strives to connect disabled individuals to support networks, increase public awareness and education on various disabilities, and support organizations that provide services to the disabled members of their community. She brings to this role more than two decades of expertise in leadership, problem-solving, program development, fundraising management, disability advocacy and public speaking. While Ms. Cawthon’s primary duties involve strategic planning and handling the financials, the small size of the organization means that she is responsible for hands-on work as well, including janitorial tasks.
Alongside her primary responsibilities, Ms. Cawthon has contributed her expertise to a number of other professional endeavors. In 2020, she co-authored “White Paper: SALSA Transportation Workgroup Summary of Issues, Actors, and Solutions” for Successful Aging and Living in San Antonio and “Gathering the Experiences of People With Disabilities During COVID-19 Summary Report” for the Disability Access Office in San Antonio. A member of the International Festivals and Events Association, she currently serves on a variety of committees and councils for the city of San Antonio, the League of Women Voters, Texas A&M University, Autism Lifeline Links, March of Dimes and more.
Attributing much of her success to the support and encouragement of her parents, Ms. Cawthon has gone on to receive numerous honors and accolades for her work. In 2013, she was presented with both an Individual Advocacy Award from San Antonio Independent Living Services and the 40 Under 40 Award by the San Antonio Business Journal. Two years later, she was named among the 20 Most Captivating People of 2015 by the San Antonio Current. As she looks toward the future, Ms. Cawthon hopes to continue to grow Disabilitysa and have it reach a point where it can exist beyond her and thrive as an independent entity that doesn’t rely on her to run.