Melissa Hickman

Marketing Director and Founder

Melissa Hickman Photo


For Melissa, there is no panacea—no single therapeutic approach— that can successfully treat all issues. She knows that adopting one therapeutic style may seem easier, but it just doesn't work. For her, each teen and his family are different from the next, with individual issues to sort through and deal with. Because of our small size, the staff has the time and the resources to make personalized decisions about every student's therapy, education, and community involvement. And everyone at Gateway—from the house staff and outdoor team to the dedicated teachers and therapists—is highly invested in each young person who walks through our doors.


As Melissa observed the successes and shortcomings of the many various therapeutic approaches in her long career, her vision for a place like Gateway grew. She has been a therapist for at-risk youth since 1991, serving in every capacity, including private practice, wilderness therapist, runway shelter therapist, and clinical director. As the Marketing Director for Gateway, she works closely with the Admissions team to carefully evaluate every applicant. She then plays an active role with the Gateway teams to determine the best treatment program for each student. Melissa believes it takes a village to achieve success, and credits the entire team for making the dream of Gateway a reality.


Melissa likes to press the boundaries of her world by exploring other places and cultures. She then hurries home again to spend time with her grandchildren. Melissa also enjoys knitting, scuba diving, and remodeling houses.

Creating Student Success

Melissa recalls working with one of Gateway Academy's first students. He was using drugs, expressing animosity toward his family, and performing poorly at school. In short, he was spinning out of control. His confrontational behavior continued for the first few months at Gateway, but gradually treatment began to gain traction. He discovered a love for bouldering in the outdoor education program, and he learned to apply himself academically. Melissa observed that as he gained confidence and stability, his relationship with his parents and siblings improved. Since leaving Gateway, he has graduated from college and now competes in bouldering.