Student Stories: Adriana Mendez

Student Stories: Adriana Mendez

Major: Computer and Information Science

Adriana Mendez was 15 years old and living in a small town in south Mexico with a family of 10 when her life changed.

“My parents wanted me to quit school at the age of 16 to stay home and help my mother with the chores,” she said. “But what my parents wanted for me was not what I wanted for my life. Life wasn’t easy, but I was hungry to learn more and more.”

Mendez never lost that spirit. She came to the U.S. at the age of 17 but instead of attending school, she had to work to help her parents support two younger siblings.

“I started working at a manufacturer making the minimum wage,” she said. “One day while working at that factory, I saw some ESL books in the garbage can and picked them out to study on my own. I felt that those books were gold for me.”

More than a decade later, Mendez finally had her chance. A mother for the first time, she found in her daughter the motivation to continue dreaming.

“When she was 1 year old, I started taking GED classes at College of DuPage,” she said. “For one year, I had to study until three in the morning. It was the only time that I had available to study because I had to work 40 hours a week and take care of my daughter. It was not easy at all, but I never complained. I didn’t care how tired I felt. I never gave up.”

Mendez earned her GED in 2012 and then enrolled in an ESL program at COD.

“I thought that English was a big obstacle in my life, but after a couple of years of study, and thanks to the teachers at COD, I had learned a lot of English, enough to start taking college classes,” she said.

In addition to her studies in the Computer and Information Science (CIS) program, Mendez received several scholarships through the COD Foundation, including the GED Scholarship and the Danny Young Memorial Scholarship. These helped with the costs associated with college, as she continued to work 40 hours a week and take care of her daughter.

“Getting these types of awards made me feel that I was not as alone as I always thought. They motivated me to continue my studies,” she said. “In fact, I got scholarships every semester while at COD. I never had to pay for my classes or books. My next dream is to be a COD scholarship donor because I know how much it means to receive financial support while you are a student.”

In 2017, with enough college credits completed, she applied for a new position at her company in quality assurance for the Information Services department. After being coached for the interview by COD’s Career Services office, Mendez was offered the job.

“After I worked so hard taking CIS classes, I was finally seeing results,” she said. “My new manager told me that all the classes I finished at COD played a big role in hiring me. I passed from being a simple machine operator to a quality assurance person. I am now working with computer programmers to validate the software and training users to use the software and to resolve outstanding issues. I am very happy because I know this is the job of my dreams. I have learned so many things and I love it.”

Having earned the Application and Technical Support Specialist Associate in Applied Science degree and the JAVA Language certificate, graduating with honors, she is now pursuing the Professional English certificate to help her better prepare training materials and other documentation. Mendez is thankful that College of DuPage has provided her with education, skills and a positive influence on her life.

“I would highly recommend this college because it is a place where you can find good people, counselors and teachers who are willing to help us succeed in our education,” she said. “My purpose now is to prove to people that no matter how difficult your life is, if you put your heart into it, you can have whatever you want. My goal also is to be a good example to others who think that because English is not their primary language, they can’t go to a university. I have proved that even if you are a second language student, you can also succeed in college.

“I have learned that nothing is impossible. I have overcome all the obstacles I have had, and I made my dream a reality and am successful in my life.”

More about the Computer and Information Science program