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Movin’ and shakin’ NOLA mamas: Family attorney Melissa Mendoza

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With Mother’s Day on the horizon (May 8!), IntheNOLA’s celebrating some of our favorite #NOLAMamas over the next few weeks!
Melissa Mendoza (Family attorney and adult education instructor at Delgado Community College) and Lily Mendoza Baptiste, 7 years old
As a family attorney, instructor at Delgado, student at LSU’s Health Sciences Center School of Public Health (she’ll be graduating with her master’s degree in Health Policy and Systems Management!), and mother, New Orleanian Melissa Mendoza is one busy woman!
For Melissa, being a mother, and a “New Orleans” mother in particular, is something special. “Being a mother in New Orleans is a privilege,” she smiled. “My daughter, Lily, has the opportunity to be surrounded by the culture of the city, which not only includes the food and music, but more importantly the people. Many mothers feel pressured by their communities to fulfill traditional roles and to have unrealistic expectations. But here we are allowed to be authentic to who we are. We take ownership of motherhood and make it what is best for our children and us. We can march to the beat of our own drum or brass band!”
Described as a “Sour Patch Kid because first she’s sour, then she’s sweet” by her Teedy Coco, Lily is a loveable seven-year-old. “She takes a minute to warm-up to people, but it’s because she likes to sit back and observe people and her surroundings, which is unique for a kid her age. But once people get to know her, they love her. She is strong-willed and logical; everything has to make sense to her. This definitely reminds me of myself. However, she is very artistic and has a great imagination, which is just like my twin sister. I love that she is her own person. It makes me smile when I see her strap on her Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle boy sneakers and then ask me for my lipstick. I’d like to believe her free spirit comes from her New Orleans upbringing.”
For most parents in New Orleans, the issue of education is stress-inducing topic (take a look at our editor’s Musings of a First Time NOLA Mom for proof), but Melissa and Lily have thoroughly enjoyed the schools Lily has attended so far: Lake Forest Elementary Charter School and the International School of Louisiana (ISL).
“Lily began Pre-K at Lake Forest Elementary Charter School and the education she received there was top-notch,” explained Melissa. “The teachers taught these 3- and 4- year-olds how to read fluently. I would highly recommend this school. Lily now attends the International School of Louisiana. I was very torn at first about moving her from Lake Forest because I had so much respect for the teachers and administration. However, I wanted her to be bilingual in English and Spanish. I wanted her to reclaim the language that our family had lost a generation ago. I also love the diversity that ISL offers. Not only do the students come from different backgrounds and cultures, but so do the faculty and staff. Lily is exposed to teachers from different countries and this helps her mind develop a global perspective. ISL also provides children with several extracurricular activities throughout the week that have been lost at so many other schools. She has library, music, art, and PE several times a week. They even have recess, which so many kids don’t get anymore. What’s more is that even with all these extra activities that some schools see as taking away from classroom instruction, ISL has a proven record of academic success and high ratings.”
For Melissa and Lily’s father, it’s important that they are a united team for their daughter. “As a family attorney, I see so many parents, who are not together, argue and fight over custody and child support. The children are the ones hurt and feel like they come from broken homes. Lily’s dad and I recognize that this is not the environment we want for our daughter. We are not a broken home; we are co-parents. Both of us take equal responsibility for Lily and often plan family activities so that Lily sees that she does have a family even if it exists in two separate homes. I am able to be a good mother because Lily has a father who is equally as good.”
And there you have Melissa and Lily!
Here are some of Melissa and Lily’s favorites:
Favorite Park
Melissa: As an Audubon member, the Zoo and the Aquarium, which Lily calls the water zoo, are our parks. Lily is an animal lover, so the Zoo is a little piece of heaven in New Orleans to her. Other days, we head over to the Aquarium, to escape the rain or the heat.
Favorite Snowball Stand
Melissa: Hands down, Hansen’s! The ice is soft, the flavors are amazing, and the owner, Ashley, is great. Lily’s favorite flavor is Satsuma limeade, which was introduced to her by her Tia Dora (Dr. Stefanie Ramirez).
Favorite Restaurant
Melissa: I am a foodie, mostly because I can’t cook, but also because why cook when restaurants here out shine any food you can get anywhere else! Lily doesn’t have a favorite restaurant, but she does have favorite dishes which include: chicken fingers from The Munch Factory, black beans from Juan’s Flying Burrito, pepperoni pizza from Slice, and chicken satay from Sukho Thai.
Other Favorite Places to Go
Melissa: Anywhere with my friends. I am surrounded by some of the best women in this city. We celebrate life and New Orleans no matter where we are. Whether we are drinking wine at Bacchanal, riding together in Nyx, or just eating crawfish on The Fly, every place feels special when I am with them.

Check out our other movin’ and shakin’ NOLA mamas:
Donna Crump (Good Dance Since 1984)
Genevieve Douglass (Uptown PR and KINDRED Studios)
Tamica Lee (WWLTV and New Orleans Saintsations)
Jolie Bensen Hamilton (Jolie and Elizabeth) 
Last modified on Monday, 18 April 2016
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