“It’s a Great Day to Be Alive…” Cynthia Mendoza, 2016 Foundation Scholarship Recipient
Cynthia Mendoza seems to have her life figured out. A 2016 graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder, Mendoza obtained a certificate in public health while double majoring in both Integrative Physiology and Psychology and is currently in the process of applying to dental school. But what ties these four fields together? Mendoza’s desire to make a difference in her community and help others. This passion made Mendoza the perfect recipient of the 2016 Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Scholarship.
Growing up in a household where her father worked two jobs while her mother stayed at home and cared for the kids, Mendoza was aware that money was always tight, yet never felt as if she was missing anything. “I was lucky enough to grow up in a loving family where not having much really did not feel like a burden. Growing up in a low-income family made me appreciate everything and not take anything for granted,” Mendoza explained.
Although this situation forced Mendoza to grow up quickly, it left her able to truly understand and appreciate all that she had in life. “… Everything has taught me something special. I have strong values that are so important to me, such as the importance of giving, loving and caring for others—things that I would have not really understood if it was not for my upbringing.”
Choosing to live life by the philosophy that “It’s a great day to be alive,” Mendoza tries to “take every day as a blessing.” It was this mantra, in conjunction with her upbringing that influenced Mendoza to want to spend the rest of her life serving others.
Her career of service began in college, where she served as a medical assistant, phlebotomy tech in the university’s medical clinic, and Co-President of Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority Inc., a sorority which helps promote education and community service. “The ability to be part of people’s memories and help influence them to help their communities, like I was, is something I hope to do for others,” Mendoza explained. “[The] little things may be the biggest impact people will hold in their hearts for a lifetime.”
When Mendoza applied for the 2016 Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Scholarship, her genuine love for serving others made her the ideal candidate. With the scholarship, she was able to spend a week in Atlanta, Georgia, volunteering with the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, an organization which is devoted to improving the quality of life for individuals affected with HIV/AIDS in communities with limited resources.
“My time in Atlanta left a huge mark in my heart,” Mendoza explained. “I learned so much from this wonderful experience!” The week-long service trip was spent doing a variety of tasks including making and distributing HIV kits to impoverished neighborhoods, informing individuals how to prevent spreading and contracting sexually transmitted diseases, and assisting in needle exchanges. Volunteers were also able to go on tours of Aid Atlanta and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn more about the issues plaguing not only Atlanta, but the rest of the world.
“[The trip] greatly reinforced my commitment to work in the healthcare field,” Mendoza said. “I am very passionate about health and helping different communities with health disparities seen worldwide. I… hope to one day apply what I have learned to socially disadvantaged populations.”