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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

Katheryn Mendez

Written by: Dulce Ortiz 🇬🇹

Katheryn Mendez standing in front of McKeldin library on April 18, 2024. (John Valencia)

As the eldest daughter of four, and with immigrant parents from El Salvador, Katheryn Mendez strives to create a life through her experiences where she can support her family and community in a way she didn’t have when growing up.

Mendez ha vivido en Maryland toda su vida. Fue una estudiante excepcional y participó en varias clases de nivel avanzado, ganando varios premios académicos en el proceso. Cuando planeaba para el futuro, quiso buscar una carrera que soportaba su interés en fotografía.

She began chasing her dreams at Montgomery College and earned her associate degree in communications in 2021. Though she enjoyed the close-knit classes and personal connections she built there, the beginning of her college experience proved emotionally challenging.

“All of my friends moved out of state to attend four-year universities, and there was this stigma that attending a community college meant you weren't the strongest student academically,” Mendez said. “However, I had worked hard in high school. It just came down to the fact that I could not afford any of the universities I applied to.”

Mendez transferred to UMD and earned her bachelor’s degree in 2023 in communications, specializing in Media and Digital Communication. She made the most of her experience by showing off her school spirit at sports games, hammocking on McKeldin Mall and joining the International Student Union as their social media coordinator. 

A la vez, trabajaba en Levian, una tienda de galletas en Bethesda, pasando su tiempo como barista y repostera — un trabajo que disfruto mucho. But again, Mendez felt disconnected from her roots and potential at the predominantly white institution.

“I had never been the only Latina in a classroom, and for the first time, I was. That's when I started to learn that I really did need to work twice as hard to have my ideas heard,” Mendez said.

Around her junior year, Mendez was offered a summer internship with CASA, an immigrant rights non-profit organization. To earn the role felt full-circle to Mendez, como la organización es muy reconocida en su familia.

“I have family members who have been members of the organization, and now to be someone working behind the scenes there, it’s kind of cool.”

When her internship ended, she was offered a communications fellowship. Her skills exceeded expectations, granting her a full-time position as a Communication Specialist within CASA after she graduated — a position she is extremely grateful to have as a first-generation student.

En el equipo, ha tenido la oportunidad de demostrar su manera única de contar historias. Las personas que ha conocido, la mayoría del tiempo siendo Latino, han tenido historias poderosas y disfruta encontrar la manera de no solo compartir la historia con el mundo, sino también de hacerlo de una manera motivadora y conmovedora.

In the future, Mendez would like to join a digital communication team within the sales industry and corporate side of media, en una ciudad — para un cambio de vista. She also hopes to take her work experience and return to university to get a master’s degree and see what she can build from that.

Lo más beneficioso que ha visto en sus experiencias es la importancia de la generación joven.

“I’m the youngest person on the team, and sometimes, it can be difficult to navigate that,” Mendez said. “We’re important. We’re the next generation and we bring many new skills, especially in digital media… I find myself teaching others and realize I’m a valuable asset.”

Mendez nunca abandonó sus sueños. Her determination has led her in a strong way and will only continue to do so moving forward.

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