Viridiana Meza, who graduated from Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Communication with an emphasis in Journalism in 2012 and a Master of Arts in Communication in 2016, recently started her position as coordinator of the Rainbow Room in Lubbock, Texas.
The Greyhound Grad discusses her new role and her time as a student at ENMU.
Tell us about the Rainbow Room.
The objective of the Rainbow Room is to provide children, youth and families with basic provisions during their involvement with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The Rainbow Room strives to provide the necessary supplies to help maintain a child or children in their home while ensuring their basic needs are being met. Likewise, when a child is removed out of their home and placed in a kinship placement, the Rainbow Room assists in providing items to ensure the child or children remain with relatives and avoid foster care.
The Rainbow Room is stocked with emergency supplies and is available 24/7. The Rainbow Room works in collaboration with caseworkers to better serve families.
The Rainbow Room helps with new or nearly new clothing and shoes, new cribs and car seats, new toddler beds, twin bunk beds and mattresses, hygiene products, etc. The Rainbow also helps in providing safety items such as fire extinguishers, heating and cooling fans, smoke alarms, door locks and other safety items.
The Rainbow Room also coordinates volunteers. There are two volunteer programs with Operation Baby Watch, aka hospital sitters and shoppers. Operation Baby Watch volunteers are needed when a child is hospitalized for illness or injury, and CPS takes custody. We enlist volunteers to sit with the child until a placement can be found. Sometimes they are babies, but we serve children into their teens as well. Shoppers help with ensuring the items needed by caseworkers are obtained by going shopping and sometimes help organize the Rainbow Room as needed.
How can people get involved with the Rainbow Room?
What are your responsibilities as the Rainbow Room coordinator?
I have lots of responsibilities, and the best way to summarize it is, I help plan fundraisers, events and presentations. I oversee the Rainbow Room items and ensure it's stocked with at all times, and I coordinate volunteers when a child is in the hospital or shopping is needed.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I enjoy the most about my job is that I get to help the children and families in need. I also enjoy working with Community Partners of Lubbock Board members because they are caring and very helpful. I enjoy we all come together to do our best to help our community.
What inspired you to work in that role?
I have worked with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services for approximately five years. I have worked in investigations, Family Base Services and I have also done licensing. I love children, especially those children who suffer abuse or neglect. I have always felt the need to do more to help the children in need. As the Rainbow Room coordinator, I get to use my communication degree and help the children and families I am passionate about. With my new role, I aspire to do more great things for our Lubbock Community and continue to help the children and families involved with Child Protective Services.
Where have you previously worked?
With the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, I have been an investigator, Family Base Safety Services caseworker and licensing investigator. I also have been a communication instructor for Clovis Community College. I taught first-grade bilingual at Dillman Elementary, and prior to that, I was an ENMU graduate assistant. I worked at Curves and retail stores like Target and Sears.
What do you hope to achieve in your career?
I hope to continue making a difference in children's lives by raising awareness of the needs children and families have among our community and building partnerships among my community and other areas.
How did ENMU prepare you for your career?
ENMU's community is kind, friendly and outgoing. I feel ENMU allowed me to grow in every aspect of my life. I overcame many fears by surrounding myself with great professors and classmates. I learned to work with multicultural people, I learned to be a team player, and I sharpened my communication skills in both Spanish and English. There are many things I am proud of in my life, and being an ENMU graduate is one of them.
Why did you choose ENMU?
I chose to attend Eastern New Mexico University because it was close to my hometown, Roswell, New Mexico, it was affordable and the classes were small. ENMU was always the perfect school in my eyes since I visited in my senior year in high school.
How did you choose your field of study?
Since I was in high school, I wanted to do something related to investigations. I felt as a journalist you are always investigating news. ENMU offered many great hands-on opportunities in my area of study. I only fell more in love with being a writer. Nonetheless, my degree also offered me the opportunity to learn about webpage and newspaper design, photography, public relations, television and radio. My degree in journalism has expanded my skills and knowledge in all areas of communication, and I love it. I feel they prepared me well in my area of study and also increased my knowledge of everything else so I could become a top candidate in any industry.
Which activities were you involved in at ENMU?
I graduated with summa cum laude, was named to the Dean's List, received the Outstanding Student in Journalism and Outstanding Graduate Student in Journalism awards., and crowned ENMU Hispanic Reina. I was a Hound Waves DJ and a member of Phi Theta Kappa.
Discuss your experience at ENMU.
My favorite professors will always be Dr. Patti Dobson, Dr. Luis Soto and Dr. Jose Contreras. Dr. Dobson was my Communication Momma, and I could always go to her with any concerns or questions. Dr. Soto and Dr. Contreras were my Spanish professors, and I will always thank them for their passion for teaching and expanding my knowledge of Latin-American literature.
I always enjoyed any activity on campus, but my favorites were the Multicultural Affairs events and presentations.
What advice would you give to a student interested in working in your career field?
The advice I would give to anyone interested in working in my career field is: You need to desire to change what is wrong, even if many are opposed. Understand that you will be a hero without recognition. See beyond your own needs, keep your feet on the ground and have an open mind. You need to understand that this career is not about making money but about ensuring children's safety. This career is a roller coaster of emotions, but one thing to remember is it is all about keeping children safe. The best gratification in this career is knowing you helped to ensure or keep a child safe. Maya Angelou once said, "They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel."
Tell us about your family and background.
I have two wonderful children, Emmanuel Meza, who will be five on June 12 and my princess, Catalina Meza, who is three. I have four brothers (Manny, Arnoldo, my twin Lorenzo, Juan) and little sister, Lionela. All of my family lives in Roswell, New Mexico. A little bit about me, I came to the United States a month before my 12th birthday. I don't remember how I learned English as I never had ESL classes. I graduated with honors in high school and college. I was the first one in my family to graduate college. I love reading, cooking, listening to music and walking. I enjoy spending time with my kids and family. My academic goal now is to get my Ph.D. in Communication.
Who influences you? Who is your role model?
My biggest influence is my family. Every member of my family plays an important role in my life. My mom is my motor; she keeps me running by pushing me to move forward and never give up. My dad is my rhythm; he motivates me to always work hard to achieve my goals but also to make time to relax and enjoy a good song. My brother Manny is my confidante. He is my go-to person to keep a secret, to ask for advice and is someone I know always has my back. My brother Arnoldo is my helper. I can count on him to help me with whatever I need. My twin Lorenzo is my psychologist. He keeps me sane and is always there to listen to my problems. My brother Juan is my personal comedian. I can count on him to make me laugh, understand my jokes and forget about life for a little. My sister Lionela is my artist. She delights me with her creativity to see life. My children Emmanuel and Catalina are my world. They remind me of the innocence one needs to have when looking at life.