Tucson, AZ – Paola Mendoza, brain surgeon? That’s the goal, and Paola is well on her way to achieving it.
Paola, age 22, graduated earlier this year from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science and is applying to medical school, “I have four years of medical school ahead of me and then a residency that could last up to four years.”
So far as her long-term career goals Paola says, “I definitely would like to stay in Arizona but I’m waiting until I get my results from my medical school entrance exams, because I’m probably going to end up working wherever I do my med school. I’d be willing to move anywhere if it means pursuing the best opportunities.”
Paola grew up in Yuma where she graduated from Yuma High School and developed an early interest in the brain surgeon thing, “I love sciences and it’s always just been something that I’m interested in. Throughout high school, taking anatomy courses, I realized that I was really passionate about medicine and I was especially interested by the brain because there’s so much we don’t know, and it’s so complex and that’s what intrigued me about it. So I decided to go into neuroscience.”
Paola says her family encouraged her path to college:
“I never saw myself not going to college just because for my mom – my going to college was always something she wanted me to do. She was really, really supportive with anything I needed, and was always really helpful because she wanted me to be successful. She told me that she wanted me to do better than she was doing and to take advantage of the opportunity that she didn’t have.”
Paola earned a scholarship from College Success Arizona which provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses. Students also receive specialized mentoring services from Success Advisers or mentors who work with them to overcome academic and personal challenges.
Paola tells us that the scholarship has helped to limit student debt and that her success adviser Matt Sotelo was a big help, “We met once or twice per semester and he was really encouraging and he would ask me how everything was going. He knew that I was interested in neurology and research so he would let me know of different opportunities. Matt also connected me with other students who have similar interests, so that was really helpful that I could to talk to them.”
And for middle and high school students in Yuma and elsewhere considering college, Paola says, “I would tell them to seek out as many opportunities as possible because coming from a small town you’re not aware of a lot of things, but you learn a lot through meeting new people and putting yourself out there. People aren’t just going to hand opportunities to you – you kind have to look for them.”