Jon Melendez, Entrepreneur

“I grew up comfortable being in the streets. On the streets, you have to have a hustle. But I wanted to legitimize that hustle. I wanted a different life. I always liked to cook and my friends and family would tell me I should be a chef. In spite of my talent for cooking, I was more drawn to numbers and I was fortunate to have some great math teachers. So I became an entrepreneur, starting my own food business. I love working with fixed costs, inventory, what customers want and trying to make everything balance out in the end.” #iamsausd

Eduardo Lara, Lecturer at Cal State Long Beach

“I love Santa Ana. I would not be the same person I am today without Mr. Stancil, my student government teacher who pushed my thinking on social justice leadership, or without Ms. Andrews, my social science teacher, who inspired and loved me and all of my classmates, or without my grandfather, who is a curandero, or without my other grandfather who read the politics section of the newspaper to me every week. I thought I’d never leave. I had a dream that I would come back here and do real education reform in the district, but life led me down a path I could not have predicted.

I went to UCLA for my PhD, and to Cal State Long Beach, where I teach sociology classes. And now, I’ve found an amazing community in Long Beach. Yet, I still think of my progress as situated in the context and story of the community of Santa Ana. And in so many ways, I have never left.” – Eduardo Lara, Santa Ana Valley High School alumnus

Lucy, CEO of Girls Inc.

“At Santa Ana High School, I ended up somehow being a part of Future Business Leaders of America. I’ll never forget going to a business competition and bringing home a trophy for 2nd place in ‘office procedures.’ It was an early taste of being competitive out in the world, something I’m familiar with now as a CEO. My work now is not a typing or office procedure competition, but it’s sending girls the right messages. At Girls Inc., we empower girls to understand their value, we work with them on public speaking and leadership, we help them understand body image and help them to love their bodies, we infuse a love of STEM in girls early on. When I hear girls move into and through middle school saying things like ‘I don’t have to act shy or timid, and it’s okay to raise my hand when I have a question or the right answer,’ that’s what I love more than anything.” – Lucy, Santa Ana High School Alumni, CEO of Girls, Inc.

Aileen, Harvard Class of 2019

“I went to a summer bridge program before ninth grade to help me get ready for high school. They said we should set goals to pursue in high school. I thought to myself, ‘I want to be valedictorian. I will get all A’s.’ And I did.” – Aileen, Century High School alumnus, Gates Millennium Scholar, Harvard class of 2019


Maribel, CSUF class of 2019 Civil Engineering Major

“My whole family rides bikes. We can’t afford a car. My dad used to ride his bike to Huntington Beach for work, but one day, a car pulled out of a driveway, knocked him from the sidewalk, and he flew off his bike and into traffic. Since then, he is too afraid to get back on his bike. My dad is the most recent and most personal reason why I care so strongly about the need for safe bike lanes in the city. That’s why I am working with the Youth Empowerment Network to measure walkability and bike safety on our Santa Ana streets. We are working on a grant to put bike lanes between the river trail and Bristol on Edinger. This fall, I am going to Cal State Fullerton to study civil engineering so I can help design safe streets from the planning stages to the completion of construction.” – Maribel (Godinez graduate, class of 2015, CSU Fullerton class of 2019) #IAMSAUSD


David, President-elect of Kiwanis, Santa Ana

“When I was five, my brother and I were walking back from playing baseball at the park. A guy ran between us on the sidewalk and a black Jetta pulled around the corner, chasing him. Guys with guns hung out the window firing shots. My brother ducked to the ground and I hunched over and ran. The guy hopped the fence, the car drove away and it was over. When we got home, my mom took my baseball hat off and we saw where a bullet had tore through the fabric on the top of my hat. At the age of five, I was almost a drive-by statistic.

So when I look at my son, I see how fragile life can be. Everything I do, I do it for my son. I realize that everything we have can be taken away from us in an instant.”

– David, father of Jacob, Kiwanis president elect, Treasurer at Heroes Elementary, & Community Liaison/Outreach for the Santa Ana PTA Council