First-Generation College Student Has Her Eye on Career with the FBI

  • 5/26/2022 9:16:00 AM

This story is part of a series of profiles the Ventura County Office of Education is presenting about outstanding graduating seniors in the Class of 2022.

MaggieSVHS3crMaggie Melendez’s road to high school graduation hasn’t been an easy one. The daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, she started school without knowing a word of English. When her family lost their housing in Fresno, she moved to a converted garage in Simi Valley with her mom and brother – the place she still calls home. And at her young age, she’s struggled with health issues, including celiac disease and an ovarian tumor that had to be surgically removed.

But Maggie hasn’t let any of her challenges hold her back or bring her down. “I try to look at the bright side of things,” she says. “I may not be as fortunate as everyone else, but I have more than some other kids who I probably don’t even know. So, I try to make the best of my situation and think positive more than negative.”

That positive attitude has served her well at Simi Valley High School, where she’s challenged herself by taking several advanced placement (AP) courses while being an enthusiastic member of the school’s dance team. She also holds down a job at a local auto shop to help with the family finances. 

C22logoThis fall, Maggie will attend Northern Arizona University in a program that allows her to earn both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in just five years. She plans to study criminology with the goal of becoming an FBI agent. She says it’s a career choice that often surprises people, but she’s been underestimated before and proved she can achieve whatever she sets her mind to.

MaggieSVHS5cr“Everything is possible if you really want it to be,” she says. Simi Valley High School counselor Tiffany Nesterenko has no doubt that Maggie will achieve her goals. “Maggie is resilient and willing to go the extra mile to overcome obstacles,” she says. “The fact that she will be attending a four-year college given all the barriers stacked against her speaks volumes about her personality and character.”

As she begins the next chapter of her life, Maggie wants to thank her mom, who works as a caregiver to support her family. “I try to make her proud because she is my motivation,” Maggie says. “She’s done everything she could to provide for my brother and me. And in the future, I want to take care of my mom and repay her for everything she’s done for us.” Maggie’s about to get that chance. Her mom will be moving with her to Arizona when she starts college.


More Inspiring Stories about the Ventura County Class of 2022

  • Maggie Melendez - Simi Valley High School

    First-Generation College Student Has Her Eye on Career with the FBI

  • Hans Bach-Nguyen - Adolfo Camarillo High School

    Harvard-Bound Grad is an Advocate for Equity in Education


  • Alex Loza - Foothill Technology High School

    Student’s “Beautiful Journey” is Leading to a Bright Future


  • Nikita Manyak - Oak Park High School

    Teen Mental Health is a Priority for this Accomplished Grad


  • Carolina Martinez - Santa Paula High School

    Daughter of Migrant Workers is Headed to UC Berkeley


  • Kendall Brown - Thousand Oaks High School

    This Grad Bounces Back when Things Don’t Go as Planned