Lidia Melendez

San Juan Sunrise Tech Center & Creekside Adult Center

Nominated in 2023


I hope to create a lovely ink drawing of my extraordinary student, Lidia Melendez. I can't paint a full color picture here, but I will draw some lines and scribbles with my computer ink in order to tell you about this incredible woman who entered my GED Prep class at the Sunrise Tech Center campus of San Juan Adult Education. It will really be a sketch, but I hope that one day you may meet her and see the true picture. As I draw, I recall Lidia implores us all to be sure what we say is true, is kind, and is necessary (her statement in class March 28, 2023).

It is necessary to draw this picture in order to nominate her for the Students Succeed award, for she is very worthy, and these bold statements draw firm lines that are true, researched, and confirmed. In addition, the most pleasant part of this nomination is that Lidia brought sincere kindness into all her endeavors as a GED student, scholar, classmate, and mentor.

Lidia told me "When I turned 45 I realized that my kids had grown and that they will be leaving my side soon to start their own lives. I decided that I needed to do something for myself." She said she had always been at their schools as a part of the English Learners Advisory Committees. "That is when I first realized that there was very little participation of Hispanic parents in the school meetings, which made me want to know more about the school system to share that information with other parents and educate them about the importance of their involvement in their kids' education." She then served as the District English Learners Advisory Committee Chair for SJUSD from 2019-2021. In addition, she serves her community through her work with the  Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT) organization for parents of SJUSD students. "Most importantly, be part of the solution" is her motto. As an example of that, she worked to distribute COVID-19 information and resources to members of the community and conducted/hosted listening sessions to better understand and identify the most urgent needs of the community during the pandemic.

After passing three of the four GED  high school equivalency exams, she said "When I started this journey I never imagined that besides learning things about the subjects I would be learning and discovering things about myself as well. I discovered how much I enjoy learning and studying, the challenges and the little victories along the way." Lidia has been putting a good deal of thought into the process of learning, and she has commented that it is not just the teacher but the students who provide inspiration. "I never thought about how important it is to have someone cheering for you every step of the way." Even her family has stepped in to support and help. Her older boys explained concepts that were difficult and reminded her not to use her mobile phone during study times! Her husband and daughter supported her, too. Lidia said that "instead of taking away from family life, it enriched it." All along she was mindful of being a good example to her children. I believe this added to her motivation to return to our class after completing her GED to be an encouragement to her former classmates and others.

In November 2022 Lidia started facilitating her "Superacion Personal" classes as a part-time job, whereas before she had been solely a participant. "I've shared my GED journey with the participants to let them know that it is possible to get your education no matter what is your age." She said that working for her GED was the first step to be able to get a certificate or start a career related to mental health care. "I can see there is a big need for mental health resources in the Hispanic community. I also facilitate a reading group with the Health Education Council."  She attended training and then developed a project based on observation of other mothers who always put their family's needs before their own. "I decided to create the reading group so they can have a safe space to share with other women and have an excuse to find the time to read during the week and enjoy that time for themselves." She has facilitated a total of six groups to date and she hopes the project is approved again "because the need for this kind of space is big."

Lidia has now completed all four sections of her GED high school equivalency exams  with high scoring levels throughout (some earning "College Ready" or "College Ready + Credit" designations), an even more impressive achievement when one considers that English is her second language. She has modeled consistent study skills and determination, and she was always good humored, engaging, kind, and encouraging to all of her fellow students in the classroom Zoom meetings. Lidia made it easier for me to teach the class and enjoy each person participating. I recall one class session when she was fed up with a teaching video that she didn't think was correct! She helped us all remember that we must carefully critique all information and question it thoroughly, that it is essential in order to make sure we follow what is true.

In review, Lidia said, "The GED journey has helped me to have more confidence in myself, and because of that I have been able to inspire two of my nieces to go back to school, I always tell them, 'Don't let me graduate before you.'" She also shared that the language barrier and finding time to study were the main difficulties for her  as she worked to achieve her goal of earning her GED. She remains strongly motivated to  further her education in order to work in the mental health field, and she is currently  researching courses with the help of the San Juan Adult Education College and Career Center. She wants to know all of her options and said, "I usually participate in workshops or training every week to learn anything related to personal growth to understand more of the subject." While she recognizes the great value of these additional educational experiences, she realizes that earning a certificate or credential will also be essential for her to meet her future goals.

One more fine line of beauty and kindness is necessary to add to this written portrait of a truly extraordinary student. After Lidia had finished her final test and received her California GED certification, she asked me if she could come back to her Zoom class. "Of course," I told her, "we want to congratulate you and celebrate your accomplishment!" She was pleased and asked if she could continue to make more occasional visits. As it turned out, she had made the request so that she could come and spend time with the friends she had made and still greatly cares about, to encourage and inspire them, because now she wants to be their cheerleader and help them succeed in their own educational journeys.

And so she was in class last Tuesday. It was good to have her there. Her presence and statements were kind, and true, and necessary. I think you see her picture now.

We teachers often say, "I've learned so much from my students."
And we should say it, because it is true.  Lois Rhodes, Teacher

You may access Lidia Melendez' essay, "My GED Journey Starts Today"

Respectfully submitted by Lois Rhodes, Teacher, San Juan Adult Education, June 5, 2023

San Juan Sunrise Tech Center & Creekside Adult Center Website External link opens in new window or tab.