News: College of Education, Health & Human Services

COMMITMENT TO SERVE Student Veteran Juggles Busy Schedule While Giving Back

by Eric Breier
Photos by Belen Avendano (’18)

Catalina Melendez isn’t fazed by a daunting schedule. “It’s challenging, but it’s not unbearable,” said Catalina, who will graduate from Cal State San Marcos in May with a bachelor’s in speech-language pathology. Being a full-time student is just one aspect of Catalina’s busy life. She is raising three children – 16- and 11-year-old daughters and a 9-year-old son. She is in the Navy Reserves, eligible to be called to active duty any time now that the three-year exemption since her last active tour in Afghanistan ended in 2014. Then there is the long list of school-related activities, from MEChA to the Student Veterans Organization to the National Student Speech Language & Hearing Association (NSSLHA). And, for good measure, she’s a PTA member and volunteers every other Wednesday at Tri-City Medical Center. Catalina served in the Marines for nearly nine years before stepping away to focus on her family. Missing the military, Catalina eventually joined the Navy Reserves. It was while serving in Afghanistan that she learned about speech therapy from a co-worker and began giving serious thought to earning her bachelor’s.

Catalina enrolled at MiraCosta College upon her return from deployment and is part of the first cohort in CSUSM’s speech-language pathology bachelor’s program. “Throughout her undergraduate studies in speech-language pathology at CSUSM, Cat has contributed to the overall excellence of both the department and its students,” said Rachel Nortz, a lecturer in CSUSM’s speech-language pathology department and the chapter adviser for NSSLHA. “Cat holds the position of undergraduate student liaison for the NSSLHA chapter at CSUSM and through this position she has encouraged new membership involvement from the student body. Being a veteran herself, she has already given back to her country and she now wants to continue that journey by becoming a speech-language pathologist.” Catalina plans to continue her education after receiving her bachelor’s, setting her sights on obtaining a doctorate in audiology, which focuses on hearing, balance and related disorders. “My command is really good about working with me, especially knowing that I’m a full-time student,” she said. “One of my senior chiefs really looks out for his people. That’s what I like about the military. You have those people who really stand out and take care of you. That’s how I want to be. That’s what’s kept me in the military – good people.”