When Magali Meza, originally from France, initially signed up to study abroad at San Diego State University, she figured the college would be located near its namesake city. But while making living arrangements for her year abroad, Meza found something curious in the fine print.
“I realized I was going to the Imperial Valley Campus,” Meza laughs. “At first it was a shock coming here, especially in late August, with temperatures well above 110 F.”
Despite her reservations, Meza embraced the chance to study in a bicultural area and says it inspired her to learn Spanish.
“I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to spend a year in the United States and study at SDSU. I tried to make the most of it. It was a very positive experience for me,” Meza recalls.
Life unexpectedly took a turn, and Meza says she realized the Imperial Valley is a great community. She recently celebrated 10 years of living here.
“I ended up staying,” she says with a laugh.
Now her international business experience is put to use in her job with the Imperial County Office of Education, where Meza is an outreach specialist. She handles several projects locally and statewide as part of the K-12 High Speed Network that ICOE manages.
Meza admits it’s difficult to pin down her role at ICOE to a few characteristics, but her daily work involves a mix of marketing while promoting services to creating flyers and logos, working on the website to update information and administering grant projects like Thinkfinity, which is funded by the Verizon Foundation.
As the state administrator for the Thinkfinity program, Meza helps spread the word about free online resources for teachers by creating a network of trainers who return to their respective school sites and share the resources with their staff.
“I really have multiple hats,” Meza confesses.
Meza graduated from San Diego State University-Imperial Valley Campus with a master’s degree in business administration. She had previously studied in Canada and worked in Paris in the communications department for an investment bank.
Originally from a fairly small community called Aurillac, six hours south of Paris, Meza explain that as part of her graduate studies she was encouraged to study abroad.
After graduation, she extended her student visa and worked for a Brawley software publishing company for several years.
“It was a great job for me because it was exactly what I had studied and had experience with after working in France. I was excited about this opportunity to stay in the Valley,” Meza admits.
Meza fell in love with a fellow student at SDSU and married him a few years later. Meza’s 2-year-old son speaks French and Spanish. The couple has plans to teach their son English soon.
“He is the highlight of my life,” she says of her son.
Adjustment to life in the United States was not that difficult, aside from learning Spanish. Now virtually fluent in the language, Meza says she loves raising her son in a small community.
“My parents are retired, and my mom has a little snowbird attitude. She loves to come here in January and stays with us for several months,” explains Meza.
Since she started with ICOE, Meza has moved on from being a web developer to being promoted to outreach specialist. Tasked with reaching teachers throughout California, Meza says her job challenges her programming skills and creativity on a regular basis.