Melinda Vasquez left home when she was thirteen years old, had her first child at fourteen and has been on her own ever since. She now has five children, never attended high school and survived a very abusive marriage in which she questioned her worth every day. When she made the choice to leave the marriage, she was not allowed to take anything, so she left with only her kids and some of their clothes. For a short while they lived in an empty apartment. That is when Melinda realized that in order to stop the cycle and set an example for her children she needed to make some changes. The first step had to be to get an education; without an education how could she get a good job and support her children?
When Melinda Vasquez decided to go back to school she was a single mother of five children ages 22, 15, 12, 8, and 5. She first attended East Los Angeles College full time and was working 22 to 25 hours a week to support her children. She would stay up at night doing piece work at home to make ends meet; between school, work, kids and piecework, life was not easy. Her priority was to take care of all the responsibility's of the children and their homework before she could even start her own; thus, making bedtime at a decent hour just about impossible.
In order to alleviate some stress and in hopes that she could cut back to working not more then ten hours per week she decided to apply for scholarships. Melinda was very lucky and, throughout her educational journey, was able to win over $20,000 in scholarships. She graduated from ELAC with honors, transferred to California State University Los Angeles (CSULA) and quickly earned her Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice; again, as an honor student. Currently, Melinda works as a staff support person in the CSULA School of Social Work while working on a graduate degree in Criminal Justice.
Melinda knows that there are many women out there who feel helpless. She would like to show them that no matter how old you are, or what obstacles you face, it is never too late. She feels that a high percentage of women are raised believing that they have limited choices; therefore, sometimes making poor decisions, resulting in feelings of unworthiness. She knows this because she was one of these women. “When a person, any person, has to question their worth, sometimes on a daily basis, it just becomes easier to not even wonder if you are worthy or not”.
Melinda understands that it is time to give back and her main goal is to change that feeling of unworthiness, helping these women to get an education which will change their way of thinking and will set a permanent example for their children. If even one of these women walk away thinking that maybe they can change their life, and that no matter what obstacles they faced they can succeed, it will be money well spent.
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Recognition & Awards
- James Kelly Award
- Cal State Distinguished Women's Award