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One moment in Mrs. Melinda Mireles life led her to changing the lives of others

There’s a moment in our lives that can be so powerful, it ends up affecting our entire lives from that point forward.

It can be an interaction with a person, so influential that it makes us want to strive to be them. It can be a freak accident, a realization for one to take life a bit more seriously. Or, it can be the epitome of Newton’s Third Law - for every action, there’s an equal or opposite reaction.

For Mrs. Melinda Mireles, it was the moment when she was 16 when she decided to be a social worker.

“I remember this day like it was yesterday. My tia (aunt) worked at a nursing home and she was so upset because one of her coworkers was physically aggressive with one of the patients there,” Mireles said. “That just stuck with me. That was so hurtful. I didn't know her co-worker. I didn’t know who the patient was. All I knew is that someone in the nursing home was injured. From that point forward, I knew that is what I wanted to do - help those who couldn’t help themselves. I didn’t know what it was called, but a college counselor helped me figure out that I wanted to be a social worker.”

Now in her 23rd year with Judson ISD, she hasn’t looked back. From Adult Protective Services to Child Protective Services, Candlewood Elementary to Wagner High School, her life’s work has been to ensure big and little people are taken care of.

“My day is different every day,” Mireles said. “I can come in the doors, walk freely to my office. Or, I won’t be able to make it past the front desk.”

Her entire day is focused on the social/emotional well-being of the students on campus.

“[I love] working with students on self-regulating, talking about tools and strategies, and what is it that brings them to school,” Mireles said. “My role is to create a safe place for kids to come [to school], whether it’s having a place to talk or just the need for a quiet place.”

The role of the student’s parents is another vital part of education in making sure the student is successful, which Mireles strives to do.

“I think a lot of parents come to me, seeking out resources on what do they do [if they need help]. It's important for me to sit down with them and maybe even pull the kid in, and figure out how we can make this better,”  Mireles said. “It’s important to bridge the gap - parents aren’t being so nosy about them - they just want you to be safe.”

She intentionally mentions the Wagner Counseling Team, who all play a role in ensuring the well-being of the students on campus is taken care of.

“I couldn’t do this job without them,” Mireles said. “I’ve also had some great administrators who have had faith in me and my ability to do my work.”

After COVID, the need for school counselors and social workers on campuses has become essential. Mireles is optimistic that schools and students will eventually get through the impact of COVID.

“COVID through a monkey wrench in everyone’s lives,” Mireles said. “The depression and anxiety in everyone just skyrocketed. But, I feel like we are bouncing back from that. I see it in the kids - kids are resilient.”

At the core of education, from academic success and athletic success to classroom and behavioral management, the relationship with the student is key in pushing through any obstacle.

“It's connection,” Mireles said. “At the end day, kids are kids. We know that in our communities, some of our parents are working two, three jobs. Kids are just trying to do their best. So I think it's important for us to know that at the end of the day, kids want to be noticed. They want connection. We have to build rapport. Students have to walk into a classroom and know the teachers care about them.”

Knowing that social work can be difficult, Mireles uses the same tools she tells her students to use in order to keep her mental health healthy.

“Yes, this is heavy, but it is very important for me to have family and friend time,” Mireles said. “I think that's what my recharge is - connecting with people. And devoting time to my kids - that’s what fills my bucket.”

One event led Mireles to this profession. Now, day-to-day, even though the job is difficult, she continues to change students’ lives, possibly giving them that one ah-ha moment that can completely alter their path, just like the moment she experienced.

“Hearing a student come in and say, “I have a problem. I want a mediation’,”  Mireles said. “Like, ‘yeah, let's handle this maturely where you don't have to get an office referral because you went off.’ That success. Those ah-ha moments. I love those. That means that students are self-regulating. That’s success. It’s tough but it’s rewarding.”

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