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Meet Melina: Empowerment through Education

If you are looking for Melina, chances are you will find her encouraging and supporting others who are in need. But it was not that long ago that Melina herself needed a helping hand. She found herself in San Francisco with no money and no one to turn to. After spending over a month on the street, enduring sleepless night after sleepless night and walking the City streets to keep safe, Melina was picked up by the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team, who took her to a women’s center.

It was at the center that Melina first learned of GLIDE. After so many exhausting days on the streets, constantly worrying for her safety, Melina could finally shower, rest and feel safe. She came back the next day and it was then that she discovered the 5 Keys School*. She signed up and was soon taking classes in American Lit, history and much more.  The school operates on-site at GLIDE, giving students like Melina the chance to restart their education with the support and services they need to succeed.

One of the teachers at the school saw Melina’s potential and began encouraging her to think bigger by helping her work toward her high-school diploma. “I’ve learned a lot, and it was really cool to be inspired by all the people there, and I became GLIDE’s first graduate,” explains Melina. In just 90 days, she was able to earn a GED and receive a diploma. She not only became GLIDE’s first graduate but also has the honor of being the fastest graduate in the history of the program.  melina2

Melina found herself wondering what was next. “You need to be supported to get back on track with your life, right? So I’m like, do I just do that and walk away? Or do I want to wait a little bit longer and then have the opportunity to give back?”

Melina didn’t walk away. She is now helping to develop a new curriculum with the 5 Keys School and encouraging other women to follow her lead in restarting their education. She believes in the power of helping others, of paying it forward. At a time when she was facing such adversity, she never lost sight of the strength that comes in service to others.

*Originally established by the SF Sheriff’s Department in 2003 as the first charter school in the nation to operate inside a county jail, today Five Keys is a charter management (nonprofit) corporation that operates public charter schools in community satellite campuses in partnership with reentry and workforce development communities in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. Five Keys provides traditionally underserved communities the opportunity to restart their education with a focus on: Education, Employment, Recovery, Family and Community. Five Keys is uniquely suited to serve GLIDE clients and reported the highest levels of enrollment ever seen for a first-time start up campus at GLIDE.