Growing up in Mexico City, Nancy Padron de Mendez hadn’t even heard of college.
“I assumed at some point I would go to high school and then go straight into the workforce,” she said. “My parents never graduated from middle school, so I wasn’t aware of what existed.”
When she moved to the United States at the age of 9 with her mother and five younger siblings, Padron de Mendez’s eyes were opened to the possibility of university life by a seventh-grade teacher and mentor.
After her high school graduation from the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center, Padron de Mendez worked as a trainer and quality assurance supervisor for American Medical Response, which manufactures ambulances for the greater Los Angeles area.
“As I moved up the ladder at my job, I realized I needed a degree to get to where I wanted to go, whether it was a position as a director or vice president,” she said.
While her first official college tour was of the UCLA campus, it was USC that eventually won her heart. After spending a year at East Los Angeles College (ELAC), Padron de Mendez transferred to USC in 2009.
Now as a senior majoring in business administration, Padron de Mendez has devoted her time at USC to paving a brighter future for herself and others, including her 8-year-old daughter.
“I am involved in several different activities on campus, and each one is fulfilling for me,” she said. “I have a goal of one day running a hospital, so everything I do is driven by the fact that I want to make a difference in this community.”
After coming to USC, Padron de Mendez did not forget her roots at ELAC and joined the SCholars Program, a grant-funded initiative created to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students transferring from community colleges to selective research universities in California. As a SCholar, she mentored and tutored students attending community colleges around the city, with the hopes that one day they too would follow her path to a four-year university.
Along with her budding business savvy, her “passion for the health care industry has always been there,” she said. Through the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, Padron de Mendez has explored that passion as a member of the Diversity in Leadership Healthcare Initiative, a program that exposes minority students to various career paths in the heath care industry. The program, she said, inspired her to dream big.
In May, Padron de Mendez will become the first person in her family to graduate from college, and she hopes to pursue a career in business or finance analysis within the health care industry.
“I haven’t done enough yet,” she said. “I look at it like I’m just beginning.”
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