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Meet Caroline Menjivar

Today we’d like to introduce you to Caroline Menjivar.

Hi Caroline, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. Prior to my graduate studies, I served in the United States Marine Corps for seven and a half years; for over four of those years, I was the Sergeant in charge of training military platoons and overseeing their logistical day-to-day tasks. It was during my time in the military that my passion for local government developed. During the last years of my military career, I obtained a license as an Emergency Medical Technician(EMT), which exposed me to the dire need for more mental health resources, as well as for services and housing for people facing homelessness. I had originally wanted to be a firefighter, which is why I obtained my EMT license, but the world had other plans for me. I went on to manage an up-and-coming private ambulance company and to this day hold my license current.

My first exposure to the systemic issues affecting our society was during Undergrad at CSUN. I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology to better understand why certain barriers affect some communities over others. I then went on to obtain my Masters of Social Welfare from UCLA where I was awarded the David Bohnett Fellowship to spend one year working on Mayor Garcetti’s Gender Equity Team. Before coming back to the Mayor’s Office, I represented the Northeast San Fernando Valley as a Field Deputy for Councilwoman Nury Martinez. Now back at the Mayor’s Office, I represent him in the entire East San Fernando Valley on a variety of issues. I am also his Citywide LGBTQ+ Liaison and point person on advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. At the same time, I am on the Board of GLSEN LA, a national organization that promotes a safe and affirming environment in K-12 schools for our LGBTQ+ youth.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The biggest struggle to get to where I am now has been time management and networking. Unfortunately, I had to maintain a full-time job while both in Undergrad and Grad school to be able to pay my bills. When my single mom lost our house back in 2008, we had to move in with other family members. The constant change in roof did not allow stability and the opportunity to simply not work to afford items. I missed out on the college experience but I was also very tired for six years. During grad school, I added a fellowship to the mix of school and work, diminishing the already low amount of hours I slept. I almost gave up the opportunity of the fellowship because I could not figure out a way to balance it all since not working was not an option.

To add to the layers of commitments, I was also planning my wedding during this time! Another obstacle I encountered was the lack of social network I had. I had no friend or family member “in” that was able to open the door for me. I had to climb every single step of that staircase to get to my position without the use of an elevator. That is why today, I push for networking and mentorship because knowing someone truly helps your goals. When I got “in” I struggled with imposter syndrome, where I felt I did not belong in the spaces I was in. I am a Latinx Queer Woman and there is not a lot of others like me in the spaces I enter. Most of the time, I am the only one, and it makes things scary sometimes. I kept thinking other women deserved to be there and they were smarter than me, that their ideas mattered more than mine. It took me a little while to realize that I WAS smart, I WAS deserving of my positions, and MY voice and opinion were just and perhaps even more important than others.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I have worked in local government for about four years now, the whole time for elected officials. I represent certain communities for the elected official and am responsible for knowing what is happening in those areas along with forming strong relationships with its stakeholders. I lead each day with the mission of empowering those who may have never thought they had a voice. Empowering people to know how to address concerns in their community and empowering them to recognize that they have a voice in government. What this looks like on a daily basis ranges from creating events with organizations, meeting with new businesses, visiting people at their home, school, or work, but meeting them where they are. Partnering with various entities on how to better bring resources to the community. I specialize in LGBTQ+, veterans, and gender equity matters. It has been with these topics that I have had some wonderful accomplishments. I was the first to hold an event dedicated to finding inspirational women in Los Angeles in order to create a list ready to choose from should anyone be looking for names to dedicate landmarks and facilities after.

Currently only about 10% of streets, landmarks, and facilities are named after women. The event was called ” Putting Angelenas on the Map. Last year, the pandemic put a pause on a lot of celebrations and in order to not have LGBTQ+ Pride month go without a mention I created an event. I led the very first Pride Caravan parade in the San Fernando Valley to focus on communities for color. While we hold Pride events in West Hollywood and other afluent areas, we need this representation in communities that are predominately black and brown and highly influenced by religion and culture. I was proud to have organized around 70 cars from schools, to pastors, to influencers that came out with their decorated vehicles to make some noise. I am excited to expand on that for this June. I am also proud of the most recent event I co-lead in honor of Veterans Day. I was able to pull in a large amount of partners and resources for one reason, to thank our veterans.

As a veteran myself, this holiday is close to my heart. I worked hard to obtain a lot of donations and set the event up as a drive-thru format where 100s of veterans in cars drove through and grabbed goodies from each table. Through my dedication and attention to detail the end result was beyond marvelous. This is what sets me apart from most. My background in the military has engraved a mentality of never giving up, adapting with the constant changes in government and moving forward. I get things done, and the community appreciates that. It is very hard to find another person with all my identities. Being brown, queer, and a veteran has allowed me the privilege to be in very different spaces, learning from them all and providing me a blended perspective on life.

What makes you happy?
Traveling is my number one happiness, traveling with my wife. I talk a lot about my perspective in life and the treatment of others. I had formatted my mentality because of my exposure to things outside of my bubble. The military exposed me to people from all over the country with very different backgrounds. Traveling allows me to grow more sympathetic to other world problems and thus more compassionate with anyone I interact with. Then we can talk about the more grounded things that make me happy like being outdoors with my friends, going camping, and renting a cabin out in the snow. Things I do on an annual basis really bring a smile to my face. I am most at peace when I am surrounded by nature and have the ability to clear my head. When it comes to my job, it makes me happy when I am able to provide the exact resources to a constituent after they came to me.

For example, I have a lot of single moms who reach out for everyday items, like groceries, baby diapers, and school supplies. Sometimes it is at the perfect moment that I have access to those items and I can connect them to these things. It makes me the happiest when I see people get empowered to answer and handle their daily challenges. I was born to be a public servant. I knew that from the first dream I had of becoming a firefighter. I knew it brought me satisfaction to be the person people turned to at their lowest or most difficult times. When that career didn’t pan out, I quickly figured out another way to serve people and this makes me extremely happy. It gives me an opportunity to attempt to fix injustices in our daily lives.

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