Breaking barriers: from Wonderful Education to USC as a biochemistry student

Michelle Mendoza shares how Wonderful Education influenced her both personally and academically

Our co-founders, Lynda and Stewart Resnick, are committed to ending the cycle of multigenerational poverty and creating lifelong career opportunities for students in the Central Valley. Their work through Wonderful Education reinvents the educational experience for students across the region, and includes supporting the Wonderful College Prep Academy (WCPA) charter network as well as running two nationally accredited, subsidized preschools, an innovative Career Pathway program, and a college scholarship program.

Through a unique partnership, WCPA provides first-rate public K–12 education to 2,200 students with programs designed to stimulate creative young minds in fresh and exciting ways. With schools located in Delano and Lost Hills and a talented, dedicated faculty, WCPA sets students up to succeed in college and career—all for free. WCPA graduates leave as critical thinkers and lifelong learners, equipped to earn a college degree and become the next generation of leaders in the Central Valley.

Just ask Michelle Mendoza, a recent WCPA graduate and student at the University of Southern California (USC) studying biochemistry. She recently sat down with us to share how Wonderful Education has influenced her both personally and academically—along with her plans to give back.

TWC: How has Wonderful Education prepared you for USC? What opportunities do you credit to the program?

MM: Without the Wonderful program, I would not be attending USC. I would be attending college, but not USC, which has become my dream school. My coach walked me step by step through the college application process; I was exposed to so much more than my peers who were not in the program. In addition, the college trips were a huge help because they exposed you to the college campus and student life and the city where you’d be moving to, which is very important, especially if you’ve never been out of Shafter (like me).

TWC: What does your ideal future look like? Where do you see yourself in five years?

MM: I want to attend grad school and get my doctorate. I want to eventually be like the teachers I had at WCPA and become a professor that students can rely on. Through my Wonderful Education, I overcame my fear of public speaking; I learned self-advocacy and so much more. I want to provide the same for future generations. As I got older, my love for education developed—I realized I wanted to be a professor. I feel like it’s a perfect way to give back to your community.

TWC: Are there any memories that stand out to you throughout the program that you often look back on or want to share?

MM: The first time I met Kate Doyle, senior director of college transition, she told me, “My job is to help you get into college.” And so I gave her my list of colleges, all top universities. I told her I wanted to major in biochem, and she showed me what colleges look for. She helped me discover what set me apart to make universities want to choose me. She put this into perspective for me: it doesn’t matter where you come from; you always have a chance to make a significant impact, no matter how small you feel.

TWC: If you could go back and say anything to young Michelle, what would you say to her?

MM: Have more fun and don’t stress as much. Be the change you want to see in the world.

No one can take education away from you, no one can take knowledge away from you, and you will always have that with you.

Michelle Mendoza

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