By Matt Nixon
If Hannah Mendoza feels pressure, she doesn’t show it.
Unfamiliar terrain? No problem.
Deadlines? Got it covered.
High expectations? Bring ‘em on.
The Georgia State University Honors College Class of 2022 Presidential Scholar has resilience forged from experience.
During her freshman year of high school, Mendoza moved with her parents and three younger sisters to Atlanta from San Jose, Calif.
“It was culture shock,” said Mendoza.
Mendoza found her new school, Grady High School, to be far more rigorous than her previous one. The social dynamics were challenging, too. She hadn’t attended a public school in eight years and had enrolled during the middle of the year.
“It showed me I could handle anything,” said Mendoza. “I also learned how to connect with more diverse groups and how to look out for those being left out socially; I know what that feels like.”
Mendoza gradually built a group of friends and involved herself with extracurricular activities, including moot court and Young Life. She stayed busy outside of school, too, volunteering with her church, coaching a soccer team of 6- and 7-year-olds, and working part-time at an ice cream shop.
As Mendoza advanced through high school, the idea of going to college became a real possibility. No one in her immediate family had ever attended college, though; her maternal grandmother was the first member of her family to graduate from high school.
Applying for college was both thrilling and daunting. Neither of her parents had the first-hand experience to really help her through the process. A fellow congregant at Mendoza’s church told her about the Presidential Scholarship and encouraged her to apply. With just a week before the deadline, Mendoza completed her application.
“The phone call telling me I received the scholarship was the best news I’ve ever gotten,” she said.
Mendoza plans to major in psychology and is enthusiastic about the opportunities available at Georgia State for exploring all her other interests.
“Besides getting a college education without the worry of taking on stifling debt, the Presidential Scholarship affirms that the school sees a lot of potential in me,” said Mendoza.
“I can be an example for my sisters and others back home in California, maybe inspiring in them the confidence that they can go to college, too.”