Juana Melara was born in El Salvador. She migrated to the United States when she was 16 years old. She is currently married with 2 children, 2 grandchildren and one on the way. Juana loves to spend time with her grandchildren and loves watch sports.
Juana is a housekeeper in the City of Long Beach. She is part of an invisible workforce that is mainly comprised of immigrant Latina women seeking a better life for their families. Although the work that she does is very important and helps to strengthen the local economy, she often feels that most people including hotel patrons rarely understand how hard housekeepers work. It is common in the industry for housekeepers to be vulnerable to sexual abuse and heavy workloads.
Both Juana and her husband of thirty years work in the hotel industry, and they feel great pride that through their hard work, they have provided an honest living for their children. For the past four years Juana has fought to pass a local city policy to address sexual assault and heavy workloads. After much adversity and failing twice in council, Long Beach voters passed Measure WW. Juana’s tenacity and breaking the silence was a catalyst the sexual assault conversation thru out the nation.
Juana states “I know that you don’t need a college degree to clean toilets, but we should still be treated with respect as workers and human beings.”
As Director of Residential Services at Century Villages at Cabrillo (CVC), Kim supports a dedicated team that serves formerly homeless veterans, youth, and families. In her work at the Villages at Cabrillo for almost two decades she has worked collaboratively to strengthen and expand the community resulting in thousands of lives being transformed.
Kim began her work in social services and as an advocate for women in Connecticut over 20 years ago. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Psychology at Central Connecticut State University. As an undergrad she worked in the Women’s Center where she first began her work as a certified domestic violence counselor and sexual assault advocate. Her work as an undergrad led to being offered a prestigious graduate fellowship to study substance abuse and sexual assault on college campuses throughout the state. In 1998, she relocated to California where she began working at a domestic violence shelter in Orange County which led to her career path in the field and to Long Beach.
In 2000, she started her work in Long Beach at a domestic violence agency as Program Coordinator. She worked to integrate the shelter and agency into the new community and to build the program into the success it is today. She held several leadership positions in the agency including the Senior Director of Contracts and Quality Assurance. Ms. Wee remains active in the domestic violence movement as a graduate of BlueShield’s Strongfield Leadership Program, an intense 18-month statewide initiative for leaders in the domestic violence field and as a long time member and current President of End Abuse Long Beach.
Kim currently resides in Orange County with her husband and amazing 7-year old son Maddox. She enjoys spending time with friends, parody songwriting, party planning, golfing, dancing, travelling, and is hoping to resume her interest in rock climbing as a family activity.
She states: “My whole life I have seen myself as a voice for those who needed help, as time goes on I find my voice just gets louder and stronger.”
Tim Varvais, M.A., M.S., Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services
Nathan Swaringen, L.C.S.W., The Guidance Center
Jessica Alvarez, Parent Safe Passages
Virginia Zart, Junior League, WAG
Ellen Hartwick, The LGBTQ Center Long Beach
Tracy Colunga, City of Long Beach
Stephanie Dowds, City of Long Beach
Sergeant Eric Hooker, and The Long Beach Police Department, Vice Investigations Team
Dominique Quevedo, Legal Aid Foundation Los Angeles
Tory Cox, PhD, University Southern California
Giovanna Martinez, WSLB
Bryan Littlefield, Volunteer at For the Child and Larry Wong American Heritage Foundation