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An Odyssey with Geoffrey Melada

Geoffrey Melada and RespectAbility Fellow Josh Goodrich in front of the RespectAbility banner

Geoffrey Melada and RespectAbility Fellow Josh Goodrich

Rockville, Md., Sept. 25 – In the Odyssey, Athena, goddess of wisdom, disguised herself as Mentor. As Mentor, she encouraged Telemachus to be strong and encouraged him to find out the true story of his father. The word “mentor” was adopted into the English language to describe someone who shares knowledge and wisdom to assist a person with less experience. Geoffrey Melada is an exemplary mentor. Melada was returning for his fifth time to share his knowledge and experiences with a new cohort of RespectAbility Fellows.

Melada, the Director of Communications for Hillel International, acted as a mentor in teaching  RespectAbility Fellows about storytelling while tasking them with a quest. He explained that storytelling is the key to success in business and many personal endeavors. After showing the Pixar short film, Piper, Melada asked the questing Fellows, “Why is this a good story?”

What Makes A Good Story

Melada engaged his audience and encouraged interaction. The Fellows worked together to compile a list to tackle the quest. As a team, the questing Fellows analyzed the movie, and with the support of their new mentor, they found an answer. They determined that a good story is relatable and can create an emotional bond with the audience. A good story shows off teamwork. A good story has the protagonist gain knowledge from trial and error. The protagonist solves the problem, and triumphs over an antagonist. Finally, the protagonist returns home to share their knowledge with others.

He then provided further demonstrations by engaging Fellows with more content and personal stories.

He told the story about Lily, an intern for Hillel International. She attended a disability inclusion conference last year with fellow Hillel students and met disability advocates from all over the world. Melada offered Lily the opportunity to write a reflection about the convention because the experience had been so impactful for her. Her words hooked people and helped raise support for the organization.

Lily’s email is to stakeholders is evidence that storytelling is the key to success in business.

Everyone Has A Story, And It Is Important How You Tell It

The questing Fellows successfully took steps forward to climb the first mountain on their route to success. Melada gave another example, about the time a rabbi told him, “I need coverage” of an event he was planning. Like Athena encouraging Telemachus to find out the truth, Melada asked the Fellows where the problem was with this approach to media relations. Eagerly, the young professionals took this challenge and identified that the word “I” was the problem.

Media relations, he explained, is about helping reporters tell a good story to their audience. If your only concern is how they can advance your agenda, you won’t succeed. Empathy is the key.

In the Odyssey or any good story, a mentor drops off and leaves the protagonist to venture on their own and complete the quest. Melada ended the mentoring session by summing up the mission of journalism thusly: true stories, told well.

With these wise words, it was clear that Melada left them with tools and skills so they can succeed and become skilled storytellers.


RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. This fall, 11 Fellows had the opportunity to learn from a variety of guest speakers. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact [email protected] for more information.



Meet the Author

Josh Goodrich

Josh Goodrich joined RespectAbility because he grew up with many family members who had disabilities. He regularly publishes content for the BuzzFeed Community, a section for the popular digital media website.

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