Alumna succeeds, guides academically

Mendoza’s experience, empathy embodies meaning of success


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Counseling assistant Leticia Mendoza hasa built a successful career at the college she attended. Mendoza holds a reputation on campus as an empathetic figure to the English as second language (ESL) community at Contra Costa College.

By Robert Clinton, Opinion Editor

To give back to a community that made potential success a reality is the most humanitarian example of character and appreciation a person can provide, specifically, when working to make the lives of everyday people in that community better.

At Contra Costa College, students come from all walks of life and for an institution to fulfill its educational obligation it is imperative that faculty and staff are able to empathize with the students it serves.

For counseling assistant Leticia Mendoza, the ability to relate to life at CCC as a student comes from first-hand experience. She fostered her campus community ties as an English as a second language student at this very campus over a decade ago.

“Leticia exemplifies what our mission for the college is. She is a pivotal example to students here, starting as an ESL student, working hourly and then being hired full time to work as a counseling assistant,” Dean of Student Services Vicki Ferguson said.

“And then to watch her finish school and walk the stage a few years ago —it’s been an honor to watch her grow in that capacity.”

Born in Michoacán Mexico, Mendoza had two specific goals as a child. First, she knew that she wanted to work in an office, but, most importantly, she wanted to help people.

Mendoza moved to Fresno when she was 23, with her then husband, following her older brother who had already established himself in the Bay Area.

Before divorcing, the couple moved to the Bay Area where Mendoza enrolled in ESL classes at CCC.

“My first goal was to learn the language because when I got here I didn’t speak any English,” Mendoza said.

“It was hard, but I was lucky to get a job in my first semester on campus. That helped me learn quicker because only one of the instructors that I was working for spoke Spanish.”

Mendoza’s first job on campus was washing dishes in the culinary arts department. Then she was hired as a tutor for students taking Spanish classes.

After earning her associate degree, Mendoza considered other opportunities but felt working at CCC offered her the best chance to help people tracing her footsteps on the same pathway to success.

“I’ve always liked to help others and I feel like here I have the opportunity to help people like me — people who come from other countries without speaking the language. Especially those who speak my language,” Mendoza said.

“From here I can help them learn, advance and be successful. Having this position allows me to help people the way that I want to help them.”

Mendoza serves as an inspiration to students, young and old.

Recently a woman came to Mendoza who wanted to drop her ESL classes because she thought that she would not be able to learn what was required in them.

As an adult, the student thought her age would prevent her from grasping the information like the younger students in her classes.

Mendoza encouraged the woman by explaining that she too had returned to school as an adult, graduated and that it was possible for anyone to accomplish their educational goals.

Not only did the woman remain in school, but she also brought her daughter to speak to Mendoza for inspiration.

“I still see her coming to take her classes,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza’s calm demeanor and personable attitude makes her an easy person to talk to.

“What I’ve noticed when I’ve been in situations with her in dialogue with students is the way she (Mendoza) puts students at ease,” CCC President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh said. “She has a wonderful way of maintaining eye contact and excellent listening skills.

“She makes students, prospective students and members of the campus community feel valued and good about who they are, which in turn makes the college look good.”

After years of working in the old Welcome/Transfer Center in the Student Services Center, Mendoza recently shifted positions and began working in the new Career/Transfer Center in SA-227.

“I’m glad Leticia stepped outside of her comfort zone in counseling services and into the retention and transfer side,” Ferguson said.

“She told me that she wanted to expand her knowledge so that she can help more students with transferring — I’m really proud of her.”

Business administration major Daniella Matute has known Mendoza since before enrolling at CCC and values the information and encouragement she has received from the counseling assistant.

“I’ve trusted her since before I got here because she was friends with my sister, so whenever she gives me advice I take it,” Matute said.

“Now that I work with her, I take advantage of having someone that can help with all of the issues that come with transferring. The transfer process can be overwhelming so when I get frustrated she always keeps me focused on my goal.”

For Mendoza, CCC has provided a life changing opportunity and the ability to make a difference in the lives of other people.

“For someone like Leticia who has gone through the educational process here, recognized that she gained a lot from the college and wanted to give back is a true reflection of community,” Mehdizadeh said.