Jordy’s Journey To Discovering The Leader Within
By Stephen Barker
April 12, 2023
Meet Jordy Mendoza, a first-generation college graduate from Houston who has defied the odds and achieved academic and career success as a OneGoal alum. Before OneGoal, Jordy wasn’t thinking much about what he wanted to do after high school. Like many first-generation students, Jordy wasn’t aware of his options and lacked the knowledge necessary to navigate the complex college application process. But working alongside his cohort of OneGoal Fellows and his OneGoal Program Director, Jordy discovered a passion for volunteering, organizing, and helping others, which led to an exciting college experience and a career in healthcare.
Lighting a Spark for the Future
When first joining OneGoal as a high school junior, his early perception was, “this is just another class,” explained Jordy. “At first I thought, ‘what is this for?’ Graduation isn’t until years from now: I wasn’t thinking about the future at all.” But when Jordy’s Program Director, Karen Paskos-Baker, assigned an exercise for Jordy’s cohort to write letters to their future selves, something began snapping into place for him. “I still have the letter and it’s so interesting to read it now; I can tell this was maybe the first time I pictured what life could be like for me someday.”
After high school, Jordy went on to pursue two Bachelor of Science degrees, double majoring in Social Science and Science. The journey toward earning those degrees began with that letter, “but it was also falling in love with volunteering and learning that I could be a leader.” In Jordy’s junior year, he began volunteering for the Houston Humane Society, caring for animals and assisting in the adoption process. Jordy shared his love for volunteering with Ms. Paskos-Baker, who suggested Jordy organize an entire group experience at the Humane Society with his OneGoal cohort. “She saw a leader in me that I didn’t see myself, and it was this lightbulb moment that I could organize others to do something good for my community.”
Support from a Caring Mentor and Peers
“South Early High School is small,” said Karen Paskos-Baker, OneGoal Program Director, and US History Professor. “We didn’t even have a yearbook for a while and it was Jordy who decided that needed to change.” Karen saw how driven Jordy could be and how he become absorbed into following his passions, “there are so many examples, but Jordy forming the yearbook committee and opening membership to students from every class showed how mindful he is of other people, and how naturally hard working he is; publishing a yearbook is no small feat! And as a first-generation student, Jordy carried those qualities with him to earn his bachelor’s.”
As a 2019 graduate, Jordy’s first year of college ended with the start of the pandemic, “I was taking classes while working at Houston Methodist Hospital in the COVID unit.” For six months, Jordy worked 12 to 18 hour days, deciding to take a year off from school to work in the hospital. “It was the craziest time of my life and I just thought, I’m needed here and my degree will be waiting for me when I get back.” Jordy stayed in touch with Karen who encouraged Jordy to return when he was ready. “I had a scholarship and she explained how the funds would still be there for me when I re-enrolled, which was such a relief, and a big part of my decision to go back.” And Jordy did just that, finishing his degree in 2022.
Caring for Others and Planning Next Steps
Today, Jordy is working as a Clinical Research Coordinator for the Department of Urology at Houston Methodist Hospital, “with my education I could have gone into human resources, health care management, education counseling, or some other field,” said Jordy. But from his experience working at the hospital during the height of COVID, Jordy knew he wanted to stay in healthcare, “I am sort of a case manager now under a truly incredible Oncologist and team. People come to us confused and fearful, and I get to be part of helping them sort through the tough decisions and plan their path ahead. I really love my work.”
Jordy will return to the University of Houston Downtown in the fall to begin a dual master’s program in project management and healthcare administration, “and through a scholarship at UHD and a continuing education benefit at the Houston Methodist, I will complete my master’s and be debt free.” Jordy’s dream is to one day earn his Ph.D., and the doctors Jordy works alongside have encouraged him to pursue a Physician’s Assistant Program, “we’ll see; I’m still deciding!” shared Jordy.
Advice for OneGoal Fellows
“I was one of you!” advised Jordy. As an undocumented student, in the middle academically in high school, and short on generational knowledge for how to get into college, Jordy feels a connection to the OneGoal Fellows following in his footsteps. “I still ask Jordy to come back and speak to our cohort at South Early because the students identify so closely with his journey,” said Karen.
“As simple as it sounds, I am just honest with them about how hard all this is. It’s hard work. But when you take time to invest in connecting with other people, staying in touch with your cohort, and relying on your Program Director like I did with Ms. Paskos-Baker, it’s crazy but people are going to open up doors for you. And the last thing is to never give up. Never give up on your chances. You don’t have to do it alone, but you can’t give up.”