Meet Our Summer Associates: Celina Mendoza

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Celina Mendoza | Contra Costa College | Class of 2020

Celina Mendoza is a graduate of De Anza High School. She is a proud Richmond Scholar who has overcome many obstacles in her life thus far. Celina has been actively involved in the community, going into her second year as an ambassador for the Richmond Promise, while also working at Starbucks and taking care of her younger sister. Celina has found an immense amount of courage through her younger sister. She currently attends Contra Costa College, studying biology. She will be going into her last year here before she decides to transfer next year. Celina’s dream aspiration is to be a top dentist once she completes dentistry school. She credits her family as her motivation to attain this career and is breaking barriers as a first-generation Latina college student in STEM.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Expand on hardships/motivational factors that influence you to this day.

A: “Throughout my life, I have faced many obstacles and at some points, they have been almost impossible to overcome. I learn from my mistakes in order to better myself and live up to make my family proud. Both of my parents are Latinos. My dad was born in Mexico and mother was born here in America, but still struggled to be Latina. When I was little, I was picked on for being Latina, even one of my teachers told me that he didn’t like me due to my race. He told me I would not make it in life. At first, I was embarrassed to be Latina, I wouldn’t want to go to school because I knew by the end of the day I would have tears running down my face from the teasing. I knew, however, that I couldn’t let these comments get to me. I needed to prove to myself that I am who I am for a reason and that I will make a difference one day. To this day, I thank all those who lowered my self-esteem. Those comments shaped me to become the person I am today. They made me work harder to prove them wrong, just because of the race I am, it doesn’t define my work ethic or how I act. Someone that has inspired me the most towards my educational journey is my little sister. I talk about her so much because she inspires me due to how hard she works on her speaking writing and talking skills to others. It is not easy for her, but she is so motivated to be able to do the things the little things that we do on a daily basis. She makes me want to try harder every single day. Without her, I wouldn’t be the person who I am today she has motivated me extremely and she has brought a special light in my life and I think her every day for it

Q: How has the Richmond Promise played a role in your education?

A: “Richmond Promise had supported me through many different types of ways from my finances to finding internships. I have always struggled financially when it comes to school. My parents “make too much” which results in little to nothing for financial aid. They have been able to provide me additional scholarships as well as providing internships for me. I  have been blessed to be able to work with them for the past year now. They have educated me that there are other people experiencing the same struggle as me and finding ways to fix these struggles. They have been able to provide me with internships through them and some outside of the program. They overall are a huge help when it comes to college whenever I have a problem or any issues with college, they are there to guide me.

Q: What do you want to contribute to Richmond or the world?

A: I genuinely find community service/volunteer work enjoyable and I hope to inspire others to feel the same way as I do. I love to help others because it makes them feel supported and wanted within this community. With this, it makes the community feel proud about living in Richmond whereas feeling embarrassed about living in Richmond. A lot of the times, especially on the news, there is always negative comments or stories about the city of Richmond. I really want to change that perspective because there is much more to the city than those negative comments. I know I have not done much, but with the little steps, I’m taking I know I will make a difference. Something I am proud of is inspiring the children I assist with reading to have a goal to go to college. A lot of them don’t realize the importance of college because their parents either dropped out or never went to college. I believe education should be our children’s number one priority due to how valuable it is. I want the people within this community to be proud of where they came from and to have big goals for themselves. Students within this community drop out of college and even high school. I hope to help the statistics go down and to encourage the youth to continue the education by attending college. I believe I also have inspired others to give back to the community by encouraging them to come read to the students as well as helping out with the homeless. Bring the community together helps everyone work together as one. With this, I hope for less negative reports by Richmond and to start receiving more positive ones.

Q: Can you tell us about your current college experience?

A: My college experience so far has had its ups and downs but mostly ups. I am currently attending a community college and recently realized I would have to attend an extra year. I soon became frustrated because I was not going to receive financial aid due to my parents making too much and my Richmond Promise scholarship would be on hold till I attend a University. I knew I had to make adjustments to my schedule to do to me believing I would have to work more but, Richmond Promise informed me with great news. They were offering students extra scholarships to students doing an extra year at community colleges. I do not need to worry about any bills I need to pay due to the Richmond Promise. They have made my experience less stressful and it gives me an opportunity to focus on my studies. 

Q: What are you looking forward after receiving your bachelor’s/transferring?

A: I am looking forward to transferring this year because I am always finding ways to expand my education. When I transfer I know there are many more opportunities for me to explore into minoring or possibly double majoring as well as being able to connect with others going into the same field as me. Something I look forward to after graduating from a University is attending dental hygiene school. I know it is very competitive but I am excited for the challenge. I have been wanting to be in this field for such a long time now that the closer I come to it the more excited I get. I find excitement in helping others and I truly believe I will be helping others by creating a perfect smile for them.


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