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Meet Daniela Mendoza Villa

Daniela Mendoza Villa wrote the poem she is presenting at commencement to express her feelings about the challenges that first-generation college students face with their families.

Mendoza Villa said the poem, "Mija, puedes traducer esto por mi?" in English "Mija, can you translate this for me?" expresses a phrase she and other first-generation students often hear.

"A repeated line in the poem is Your parents didn’t cross the border so you can cross the stage at commencement," Mendoza Villa said. "They had and continue to have dreams of their own."

Growing up in Vista, Mendoza Villa doubted she would ever earn a college degree. Mendoza Villa initially attended MiraCosta College in 2015, but she dropped out and worked various jobs ranging from retail to fast food to a plant nursery.

She tried MiraCosta College again in 2019 but dropped out again after the pandemic struck. She enrolled again in 2022 as an English and literature major.

A major factor for Mendoza Villa’s success was being part of PUENTE, an academic learning community that provides counseling and support services so students are better prepared to transfer to four-year universities. She said the PUENTE faculty and staff have provided her with support and guidance.

"All these wonderful women have helped me so much in my growth," she said. "The community that you choose to surround yourself with makes it so worthwhile."

Mendoza Villa said she plans to attend the University of California at Santa Cruz and hopes to teach English in high school and later at a community college. She would like to broaden the literature students are taught to include a wider range of current authors.

"I want to do something that immediately impacts the community," she said.

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