Ernest Melendrez

Ernest Melendrez

Job Specialist

Friends Outside LA

Pasadena, CA USA

I look at emotional literacy as one of the biggest keys in people’s lives because how do you learn to express yourself if you don’t know what to express. You have to ask yourself, what is it that you want?


By Roadtrip Nation

Ernest Melendrez


My road in life has taken me all over.
I grew up in East Los Angeles in a multigenerational gang-affiliated family and was exposed to violence, poverty, and drugs from a very young age.
At eight years old, I was caught stealing bikes; by age 14, I was arrested for grand theft auto; by my late teens, I was addicted to drugs and had committed armed robbery and other crimes.
In 2007, at the age of 35, I left prison for the last time and made the decision to change my life.
I found support on my reentry journey by participating in behavior modification programs like Amistad de Los Angeles, which helped me better understand myself.
Started taking classes at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in subjects like community building, professional development, mentoring, and conflict resolution.
Began working as an organizer and employment specialist directly in communities heavily affected by gangs, violence, drugs, and incarceration in the hopes of disrupting those cycles.
I became a certified employment development professional and got a job working as a job specialist for Friends Outside in Los Angeles County and a case manager for their Dads Back! Academy.
In 2017, I was the recipient of the Harriet Tubman Distinguished Award at the inaugural Beyond the Bars LA Conference.
Keep following my journey


High School
Associate's Degree
Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies
Los Angeles Trade Technical College
Conflict Analysis
The United States Institute of Peace
Crisis Intervention Training
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Southern California
Counseling Instruction
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Southern California
Professional Forensic Psychology
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Southern California


Job Specialist

I help formerly incarcerated individuals receive the career counseling they need to reenter society.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Non-Profit Organizations
Helping People

Day to Day

I provide career counseling and job seeker services to formerly incarcerated individuals. My duties include identifying individual's values, develop possible career paths, referrals to supportive services, employer services, career coaching, job search and classroom instruction, and regular follow-up in executing client's individual employment plan. I facilitate customer access to supportive services, social services, training, education, and employment services, as well as job search mechanics.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for everyone

Advocate for the cause(s) you care about. Get involved and familiarize yourself with the details of the area(s) you want to help out in. Take classes at a community college or trade school and get certified in different areas. Connect with people and challenge yourself to get out into the world. When working with formerly incarcerated individuals, it is all about helping to strip away the stigma and giving them the resources to succeed.


The Noise I Shed

From Society in General:

"I'm scared of you."

Challenges I Overcame

Gangs / Violence
Drugs / Addiction
Formerly Incarcerated

Interviewed By



Changing careers and reinventing your path