This month Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Director Colt Gill, and lottery representatives joined Coos Bay Public Schools Superintendent Bryan Trendell and Marshfield High School Principal Elias Ashton in honoring Melinda Torres as Oregon’s Education Support Professional of the Year, recognizing her outstanding dedication and support of students, families, and the whole Coos Bay community.
Torres is the liaison supporting students who are in foster care or are experiencing houselessness for the Coos Bay School District. Melinda manages the ARK (Keeping At-Risk Kids Afloat) Project and provides case management for youth and families experiencing housing instability. The ARK Project is a school-based program supporting youth and families experiencing housing instability in the Coos Bay School District.
Founded in 2009, the drop-in center is open to all Coos County residents. It is designed to provide basic needs, crisis intervention and advocacy, essential support services, and educational opportunities to children and youth ages 0-21, and their families who are facing housing instability.
“Melinda’s outstanding work and dedication to her students is truly remarkable,” said Governor Kate Brown. “I’ve heard about how she works day in and day out to expand programs that benefit the students and families of the Coos Bay community. Congratulations, Melinda, on this great achievement. Coos Bay School District is so lucky to have you.”
“Melinda is the driving force in our ability to expand services and build outreach and community partnerships to expand the program over time. She recently volunteered to be the Foster Liaison in the district as part of her duties to expand assistance to those students and families,” said Bryan Trendell, Superintendent of the Coos Bay Public Schools. “Melinda is a master at bringing people together and getting things done to benefit the youth and families in our community. Her passion, spirit and drive go above and beyond. She deserves to be recognized for that work. She provides a role model for our youth and continues to move or community forward with her work.”
“Melinda is a deeply appreciated, influential and beloved ESP in the Coos Bay community, and it’s very clear to see why; students and their interests are her highest priority,” said Colt Gill, Director of Oregon Department of Education. “Oregon ESP’s fill countless roles in our schools, ensuring our education systems reach the needs of each and every student.”
Thanks to ODE’s partnership with the Oregon Lottery, Melinda received a monetary gift of $5,000 and an award plaque. A matching plaque and banner were awarded to Marshfield High School to mark Melinda’s achievements and her impact on the Coos Bay community.
“With houselessness reaching a crisis point across the state, the support Melinda Torres provides for homeless youth and families in the Coos Bay School District is critical,” said Oregon Lottery Director Barry Pack. “Melinda’s demonstrated leadership and dedication is impressive. As her nomination points out, ‘Melinda is a master at bringing people together and getting things done to benefit the youth and families in our community.’ This award demonstrates how one person can make a difference in so many other lives. Congratulations, Melinda.”
Oregon’s Education Support Professional of the Year Program is a result of House Bill 2964, passed by the Oregon Legislature in May of 2019.
Educators nominated for Education Support Professional of the Year are employed by an Oregon public K-12 school or school district and meet the definition of an ESP in Oregon. Eligible nominees for the 2021 award were evaluated through a Blue Ribbon Panel facilitated by ODE.