Legal Aid Association to honor HCOM grad
A service-learning placement turned into a career for Adriana Melgoza (HCOM, ’10) and now she's earned an award of merit for her work.
When a representative of the Watsonville Law Center (WLC) visited one of her classes to talk about equal access to justice for low-income communities, “I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” Melgoza said. “My passion is to help people in need and to be involved in improving our community.”
Her placement started in 2009, and she excelled to the point that she earned the Human Communication Service Learning award the next year. Her work involved interviewing clients and working side-by-side with attorneys. “I became aware of so many issues that affect our communities,” she said.
After graduation, the WLC hired her. She manages the center's legal clinics and recruits, trains and supervises volunteers, including CSUMB service learners. Her duties also include community education around legal issues and staff training for community organizations.
She will be honored by the Legal Aid Association of California with an award of merit in the staff support category at the association's 30th anniversary celebration Jan. 31 in San Francisco.
“Having been a volunteer myself helps me understand the problems our community faces and how volunteers can help achieve WLC’s mission,” she said. “It was as a service learner that I learned the skills I now use every day.”
Her service learning days are behind her, but she continues to serve. “I work in social justice because I believe in recognizing the dignity of every person,” she said.
And she credits CSUMB with helping her identify her values and goals.
“CSUMB has shaped who I am in many ways. Professors helped me understand what I really wanted for my life. The classes motivated me to continue with my passions.”
She has also put her skills to use by organizing a parent support group – Unidos Por un Corazón Inocente – for families of children with disabilities.
“Our mission is to provide support, education and training to parents, caregivers and families; for agencies to work with parents and children; and to advocate for the services our families need,” she said.
“I learned how to do this at the university. I love CSUMB," she said.
She hopes to attend law school in a few years. "I want to continue to advocate for underserved populations, in a bigger capacity. I would like to provide services for the most vulnerable – people with disabilities.
"My plan is to continue to work in the nonprofit world, to give back to the communities that have given me so many great things."