When Shadle Park High School senior Cindy Mendoza is faced with a challenge, she doesn’t view it as a setback, but instead as an opportunity.
“I tell people despite your challenges in life, you can rise above it,” she said.
Mendoza, 17, learned her unique drive to achieve goals with education, hard work and perseverance from her mother, Denise Seachoque – a native of Colombia who began working at a young age to help support her family.
Mendoza epitomizes Shadle Park High School’s concept for students to strive to be their best, said Julie Lee, principal at Shadle Park High School.
“When I met Cindy, she came up, introduced herself, and I didn’t know much about her. But she told me she was here to get the best education for herself. She and all her brothers set really high, enduring goals for themselves,” Lee said. “She is always taking the high road. She doesn’t blame or place responsibility on others, which is a really mature and unique quality of someone that is Cindy’s age.”
Mendoza’s parents migrated to the U.S., where she was born. However, her father left when Mendoza was about 1 year old. Her mother, Seachoque – who didn’t know English and didn’t have family nearby for help – suddenly had to figure out how to make a living in foreign place with five children.
Seachoque learned English, learned to drive and obtained citizenship.
“As time passed by, I learned more. And I’m still learning,” Seachoque said. “I’m a single mom and I want the best for my kids. I told Cindy, ‘I want you to concentrate in school, so you can have what I wasn’t able to have.’ I teach Cindy to work for what she wants.”
Now, Cindy Mendoza participates in cheerleading, orchestra club and volunteer work, and she tutors Glover Middle Schhol and Shadle Park students in geometry, algebra and biology.
“I think the counseling staff and teachers would like there to be more Cindys,” Lee said. “She interacts well with peers and you can never tell when she has a bad day. She is always this positive influence and definitely a positive role model for all ages. We know that when she does something, she is going to do it well.”
Mendoza – who is enrolled in the Running Start program at Spokane Falls Community College – wants to pursue a career in music and vocal performance. Next semester she plans to take courses in music theory, barbershop quartet and choir to prepare for acceptance into a vocal performance bachelor’s degree program at a university.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It could be music just to help someone get through the day. Or it could be a message for a cause,” she said. “I can’t see myself doing something else. It would just go against who I am. Music is so powerful and there are people that can impact the world through medicine or science, but the best way for me is through music.”
Mendoza is primarily a self-taught vocalist, but for the past two months, she’s been using funds received from tutoring to pay for voice lessons. She practices German, French and Italian classical songs for about 45minutes to an hour each day and would like to learn piano.
Even though Mendoza experienced setbacks – such as limited access to transportation or funds to take music lessons – she doesn’t let it get her down.
“I didn’t have a lot of things other people had. It’s hard. When life gets hard, when school gets hard, I have to keep working no matter what happens,” she said. “You think sometimes that your dreams are way too big, but you have to look past that and see what you can become. And that’s what keeps me going. I’ve always wanted to be successful. The scary part is not achieving that.”
The Running Start program is good for Cindy, so she can get a jump start into college, shaving some of the cost, Lee said.
Mendoza said her mother works six days a week and has held two to three jobs simultaneously. As a result, they don’t see each other much. But Mendoza is thankful for her mother’s sacrifice to provide for the family and thrive in the United States.
“We came from the ground up here and we have an opportunity that my mother’s family in Colombia doesn’t have. She managed to get all of us in a good situation,” Mendoza said. “I learned from her what hard work could lead to. She had obstacles in her life, but she rose above her circumstances and gave me a future that she wasn’t able to have. She tells me how important education is, and it is an opportunity that I don’t take for granted.”
Mendoza’s mother wishes she had more time to spend with her daughter.
“She’s a very humble girl. I’m very proud of her. I told her she’s my star,” Seachoque said. “She told me she wants to be a singer so she can help provide for me and I told her not to worry. I really want her to reach her goal.”
Mendoza said one day down the road, she wants to give back to her mom and others.
“I want to contribute to the world too, somehow, as big as that may seem,” she said. “I’d like to use this chance that I have, that shouldn’t be taken for granted, to help other people.”
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