Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Alica Mendoza
Fondly known on campus as the "CAMP counselor," Alicia Mendoza is the counselor for the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), supporting first-time Mendocino College students from migrant farm-worker families, rather than leading campfire songs.
Born in Mexico, Mendoza has lived in Ukiah since she was six years old. She attended local schools, including Mendocino College (MC), where she worked as a math tutor. While at MC, she also worked at the local J.C. Penney's store.
As an adolescent, she worked in local grape vineyards with her parents. "My parents always did agricultural work, but I felt I was capable, and I could do more," she says. "I felt an obligation to myself to get an education, and to get a good job that I enjoyed." Although the family was poor, Mendoza says her parents encouraged her to get a high school diploma. After that, however, they were unable to guide her, so she had to figure it out for herself. "I talked to people I thought could help me, like counselors and teachers; I asked a lot of questions," she explains.
After completing her transfer requirements at MC, Mendoza attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where she earned a bachelor's degree in psychology, because "I enjoyed the psychology classes at MC," she says. While a student at UCLA, she worked as a resource guide at the UCLA medical clinic, greeting patients and directing them to their destinations. "I was known as the Map Girl," she smiles. While she enjoyed studying psychology, she had not yet discovered the satisfying career she longed for.
Still seeking her true vocation, Mendoza returned to Ukiah, where she was employed as a social worker aide at the Department of Social Services (DSS). A friend at DSS had completed the school counseling master's program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and that started Mendoza thinking about a possible career in school counseling.
She went on to study at Sonoma State University (SSU), where she earned a master's degree in counseling, along with a Pupil Personnel Services credential. After graduation, she worked as a counselor with the court community schools in Mendocino County, then spent nine years as a counselor/dean at Ukiah High School. "I had worked with Geoff Navarro, the previous counselor for CAMP, so I knew about the program," she said. When Navarro moved on, Mendoza thought it would be fun to work with college students, so she applied and was hired for the position in July 2010.
CAMP is funded by a five-year federal grant. The goal is to provide intensive support to first-time migrant college students. A student must be a migrant and have a high school diploma or a GED to qualify for the program. Services of the CAMP program include: a dedicated counselor (Mendoza) who provides both personal and academic counseling; Orientation to College and Career Planning Success classes taught by Mendoza, and designed especially for CAMP students; trips to visit universities and cultural events; stipends for good academic performance; and a book voucher each semester.
"I love to help students make their challenges more manageable, and to feel like I am making a difference," she says. "The students are so motivated," she continues, "and I get to help them find directions (career) that interest them".
When she is not working, Mendoza enjoys family time with her two young daughters. She also enjoys cooking, and watching foreign films.