In 2007, when, amid a family crisis, Jorge Mendez arrived in the U.S. from Villa Juarez, Mexico, he spoke no English, had no job and no money to speak of. His parents remained in Mexico while he spent much of his adolescence in Sylmar and Panorama City and on the streets, looking out for himself.
Fast-forward eleven years to Woodbury’s 2018 graduation ceremony. On the podium, delivering his commencement address, Jorge recounted a few lessons from his remarkable journey:
“Before I began my MBA at Woodbury in 2016, I thought the purpose of a higher education was solely learning and getting a better career; Woodbury taught me that I was wrong. I operated under the impression that our world was deeply broken and that it was not my job to fix it; it taught me that I was wrong. I used to believe that one person could not make a difference. Woodbury again taught me I was wrong.”
In the interim, he learned, as he says, to be self-sufficient. He relied on tutoring as his sole source of income until he finished community college. His prowess at cross-country and track earned him a full scholarship to Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Administration. Even before graduation, Jorge snared several internships, working as a business manager and bookkeeper before being hired as an international accountant at Azteca International Corporation.
As an MBA student, Jorge looked to Woodbury mentors like Paul Sabolic, Satinder Dhiman and A. Craig Keller, and in time rose to the position of president of the Master of Business Administration Association –- a way, he says, “to enhance my skill set.”
While the norm for newly-minted MBAs is to make the rounds of potential employers, Jorge was fortunate to not have to take that step. Robert Half, the S&P 500 human resources organization, made the first move, hiring him as an accounting consultant. “I never applied,” he says. “I believe they found me through LinkedIn. Now, they send me to different clients to help with their financial problems.”
In the near-term, Jorge has his sights set on CPA certification and plans to begin a part-time law school program in Los Angeles. “Longer term, I want to expand my own business, B&O Business and Tax Consultants Inc., which I recently launched thanks to Woodbury, and help people grow financially,” he says. “I want to give people the tools to help them defend themselves and plan for the future.”
It’s a vision that ties back to Jorge’s commencement speech: “Woodbury reminded me that as kids, we are encouraged to learn that we can change the world. When we grow older, we forget this concept. We neglect the idea that we should be united to make a difference. Woodbury taught me a different way to see the world. It taught me that a simple gesture of kindness can lead to charity — it taught me that we can find strength in serving others.”