Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.
An Early Decision
"I came here on a college tour of the Southeast, and I just fell in love with the college. I could see myself here, but I wasn't too sure if I could afford it financially. Applying early decision was tough, since that agreement's binding." Close personal guidance from the Financial Aid Office reassured Mendez, a first-generation college student, that a Davidson education would be affordable. After she was accepted, a Bonner Scholarship, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Strategies for Success Scholarship, and Davidson Trust funding followed.
A Bronx native with a Puerto Rican father and a Filipina mother, Mendez brings a thoroughly multicultural background to Davidson. "Sometimes I feel like I don't even know what language we speak at home, but this is my history, and I'm proud of it. That's what I try to bring to OLAS." She is president of the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), a group dedicated to fostering a spirit of solidarity among Latinos and all who are interested in Latino culture.
Majoring in Environmental Studies and Spanish through the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Mendez is eager to take her studies abroad. "There are so many international opportunities here-I'm just trying to take advantage of all of them before I graduate." She received a Dean Rusk grant to participate in Davidson in Cádiz, Spain and has applied for a grant to WOOF (Work On an Organic Farm) in Latin America. She'll spend a semester studying sustainable development and comparative ecosystems in Quito, Ecuador.
Outreach without Overextension
Though she admits, "I do too much," Mendez avoids getting overwhelmed. "There are so many leadership opportunities here, and I love academics too. Now I just ask myself, which one is going to inspire me?" One such opportunity is working with Davidson Students Volunteer for Science, supported by HHMI, to increase math and science interest and comprehension in middle school students. "We had to recruit a minimum of 60 students to volunteer, but we got 98 volunteers and our retention has been really strong. It was one of my biggest accomplishments of my first year."