At School, Melendez Talks Computers, Garcetti Jobs Agenda
Vanessa Romo | December 10, 2013
Since becoming Mayor Eric Garcetti’s top education advisor four months ago, Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana has made few public appearances but, today, for the first time, the 30-year educator took center stage alongside LA Unified officials.
She was one of several speakers at the UCLA Community School in the Robert F. Kennedy Complex, kicking-off “An Hour of Code,” a national event designed to encourage students from kindergarten through grade 12 to learn more about computer programming.
“The work that’s being done here is completely in line with the Mayor’s vision,” Melendez told LA School Report.
Melendez says her top priority as the Director of Education and Workforce Development is to carry out Garcetti’s plan of creating 10,000 jobs for the city’s youth.
“We find that many of our students don’t have the opportunity to have that first job, and that’s a shame because sometimes those opportunities lead to careers.”
No other mayor has taken on such an ambitious project “so he’s really upping the ante,” she said. “It’s all part of our ‘From Cradle to Gainful Employment Plan.’ ”
The city is still working on finding new partners to create those jobs and internships. “We have to be really creative,” she said of an effort made more challenging by recent severe budget cuts to the school district and city services.
“The new normal has become less resources,” she said. “So the question is, how do we pull them together to leverage the programs that we have now so that it’s much more streamlined for our community?”
Prior to joining Garcetti’s team, Melendez was Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified. Earlier, she worked in Washington D.C. as an assistant secretary for elementary and secondary schooling, under U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.
Those jobs took her far from her husband and parents.
“Before coming to work for the city, I was living in guest house [in Santa Ana],” she said. “I only saw my husband on the weekends and I just decided I had spent 30 years focusing on my career and now it was time to focus on my family.”
Melendez said now that she’s under the same roof as her family, “I finally have a life again.”