Perhaps you remember this lovely picture of Yulisa Mendez, a 2016 Sierra High School graduate and recipient of several community scholarships. It wasn’t that long ago! We caught up with this impressive, inspiring and tenacious leader to learn of her college experience and future plans. Below we share her story from a written interview.
TTCF: Tell us about yourself.
YM: I’m 20 years old and have a five year old daughter named Alyssa. My family moved to Truckee when I was only a few months old. My family means the world to me. I am the oldest of five kids and have always helped my mother take care of my younger siblings. In high school, I became a teen parent. During this time, I lost hope in ever pursuing my educational dreams. When my daughter was born, she became my ultimate motivation to continue my education. With the support of my family, high school, community, and friends I was able to graduate from Sierra High School with 20 college credits.
Now, I am a senior at Sierra Nevada College and will be graduating with honors this upcoming May. I will receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Biology. I will also be graduating a year early.
TTCF: What inspires or motivates you?
YM: My daughter. My daughter is the person that keeps me moving forward. Without her I would not be where I am today. I want to make my daughter proud and be a role model to her. My mother is also my inspiration. As a single mother of five, she has given so much to me and my siblings. I hope to one day repay her for all that she has done for us.
TTCF: You received a number of community scholarships, can you tell us a bit about the process from a student perspective?
YM: The process of applying to scholarships was simple, but difficult at the same time. The most difficult part was writing about myself and my life story. It is difficult to talk about yourself and describe what you have been through. The best part of applying for scholarships is that you get to reflect on all of the accomplishments you have achieved in your life.
TTCF: What do you think the value of higher education is? How can community scholarships help?
YM: I believe that it is important to keep learning and to never stop. Education is something no one will ever take from you. Education is one of the most valuable things a person can have. Community scholarships are very important; they give students like me an opportunity to believe in oneself. Scholarships enable students to write about their accomplishments, goals, and future aspirations. They provide motivation, encouragement, and support to those students who, like myself, have felt like giving up. The scholarships allowed me to focus on my school work and to not worry so much about the financial factors.
TTCF: What were the ups and downs of your college experience?
YM: Taking 18 credits every semester- it was difficult taking so many courses at a time while also managing being a parent, a student worker, and a provider for my family. The best part of college is getting the opportunity to learn, be a part of a unique community, and experience new things. For example, I will present my research project that I have been working on for the past year at different research conferences at UNR, UCLA, and at SNC. Coming to the end of this experience, I am proud of all the sacrifices I had to make, all the hard work has paid off.
TTCF: What’s next?
YM: Once I graduate, I want to obtain a master’s degree in social work. Social work is a field that I am very passionate about. I am an example of what great support from a community can do. With a degree in social work, I will be able to pay it forward and support/help vulnerable populations in my community.
There are so many remarkable students like Yulisa who are poised for success, but just need your help to pay for tuition, books, room and board, and more. Please help students reach their goals of higher education by supporting our scholarships or opening one of your own today. Call Phyllis McConn at (530)587-1776 or donate here.
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