Recent Woodbury University graduate Jorge Mendez wants people to know there is no obstacle that can get in the way of a person’s success in life.
The private university held its graduation ceremony last month and Mendez, 26, of North Hills, was given the honor to speak before his peers.
Mendez graduated from Woodbury with a master’s degree in business administration and recently started his own accounting business.
However, his path to earning that degree was not always easy.
Immigrating to California from Mexico when he was 15 years old, Mendez said he had a few obstacles in front of him. He entered high school in the San Fernando Valley not knowing how to speak English and was depressed about being away from his family members, who were still in Mexico.
Despite those odds, Mendez said he had a desire to become better and to succeed in life. He joined his high school’s cross country team and ran about 8 miles a day. He learned English in about six months, after attending every after-school and adult program he could.
He even managed to tutor other students on the side to help pay for equipment and food during his years in high school.
Mendez then went on to community college, which he paid for through athletic scholarships and tutoring. He said he would bounce around from couch to couch at times, not having any money to pay for a room or food.
After three years in community college, Hawaii Pacific University, a private university, offered Mendez a full-ride athletic scholarship. He accepted the opportunity and earned a degree in accounting, and he was even offered a job before completing the program.
In 2016, Mendez was figuring out what he wanted to do in life and decided to apply for Woodbury’s master of business administration program.
The recent graduate said he sometimes thinks about his time when he first arrived in the United States by himself and ponders about what gave him the energy to persevere for more than a decade.
As an undocumented immigrant, Mendez said he was aware of the challenges he would face. However, he said he chose to ignore those obstacles and put in years of hard work to get to where he is right now.