Kyle Melatti PPS’22 is the student speaker for the Sanford graduation ceremony on May 6.
Kyle Melatti is up front about his goals: “I want to run for public office in Nevada.”
He grew up in Las Vegas, the first generation son of parents who migrated from Brazil. His parents both worked in the casino industry; his mother had been a lawyer, but now was a cocktail waitress. His father brought wealthy Brazilians to play in the casinos.
His parent’s experiences opened his eyes to the problems of the city and the state early on.
“My dad talked to me about the corruption of the casinos and he retired early because of his ethical concerns,” Melatti said.
He saw some of the problems with education in his own schools.
“I knew it wasn’t a good school,” he said. “The school problems are manifested in outcomes, such as test scores, where Nevada ranks 48th in the country. The population of Nevada exploded in the 90s, but they still have most of the same infrastructure as before. They are lagging behind in resources for all the new people and it’s sad to see.”
This situation made him determined to change things, and the ambition to aim for a position, such as governor or high court justice, with the power to act. For Melatti, the first step was to get into a good college. Nevada only had three major accredited universities in the state, so that meant going out of state.
Choosing Public Policy
Melatti came to tour Duke during Blue Devil Days, and sat in on a political science lecture. When the professor talked about policy, it caught his interest. He checked out the Sanford website, visited the building and he was hooked.
“It’s the best, there is this dedicated space, where I hang out all the time. Everyone knows each other, it’s a real community,” he said.
Melatti has taken advantage of many of the opportunities available at Sanford and Duke. He was co-chair of the American Grand Strategy Student Council, served in Duke Student Government and a TK Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. He has been a PEP fellow, a political engagement and leadership development program with the Hart Leadership Program.
He worked with Professor Gunther Peck on a how-to guide for first generation students. “It was a ‘how-to’ be a citizen, get into college and get yourself educated guide,” he said.
In the summer of 2020, he was an intern for Congresswoman Susie Lee (D-NV.) “I was answering the phones and 80 percent to the calls were COVID related,” he said, but he also drafted several memos and policy briefs. Melatti briefed the congresswoman and the office on the daily local news, and saw how the pandemic affected his hometown.
“When travel goes down, it hits Las Vegas. The casino workers were sent home for two months, with nothing to fall back on,” he said.
Melatti honed his knowledge of educational issues as a research assistant for Professor Sunny Ladd and for how government runs assisting Professor Dough Brook with a project for the Government Accountability Office. He did an independent study course on religion and politics with Professor Abdullah Antepli, analyzing people’s decision-making in the 2016 election. “People were willing to sacrifice their religious beliefs for political ones,” he said.
“Sanford has really been the cornerstone of my experience at Duke,” he said.
After graduation, Melatti will work in consulting for a while, to save money to go to law school, then he still plans to go back to Nevada and make it better.
About Our Graduates
Students graduate Friday May 6 from the Sanford School with undergraduate, Master of Public Policy, Master of International Development Policy, international Master of Environmental Policy and PhD degrees.