Nancy Padron de Mendez ’12 faced a tough decision when she received her acceptance letter from USC. Her boss had just offered her a promotion with more pay. For a single mother who also helped provide for her six younger siblings, she was caught between achieving a dream and making ends meet.
Nancy turned down the promotion, came to USC and graduated in May 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the USC Marshall School of Business. She is the first person in her family to earn a college degree.
“As a first-generation college student, I was very insecure coming to USC,” says Nancy. “I felt that the other students I was competing against already had so many advantages over me—a better education, well traveled, financial support and connections. But I refused to be deterred by any financial hardships.”
Nancy’s family came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was seven years old. When she was 15, her family returned to Mexico. When Nancy came back to the U.S. and tried to enroll in East Los Angeles Community College, her diploma from Mexico wasn’t accepted, so she worked full time and earned another high school diploma.
She worked hard to help her mother and siblings financially while earning the grades necessary to transfer to USC. By then, Nancy had a daughter of her own to support, but she was determined to get the best education possible so she could provide for herself and all those who depended on her. While supporting her family, Nancy got the moral support she needed from the Latino Alumni Association.
“The USC Latino Alumni Association has been my lifeline. They were the first to teach me to find and work on my strengths as opposed to always focusing on my weaknesses,” says Nancy. “Attending USC requires the very best you have to offer. Without the help of the donors and volunteers who mentored me, I would not have overcome my insecurities, financial hardships and the USC culture shock.”
Nancy received an LAA scholarship throughout her time at USC, as well as a scholarship from the prestigious Norman Topping Student Aid Fund. She served as director of operations for the Latino Business Student Association and volunteered for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, USC Volunteer Center’s Friends & Neighbors Day and the Union Station Homeless Center.
She acknowledges that balancing academics, community involvement and family was challenging. “I wouldn’t have been able to do half of what I did without the support of my immediate family as well as my USC family,” she says. “My daughter is the force that motivates and drives me.”
She often brings her daughter to LAA events. “When I was her age, I didn’t know about college,” says Nancy. “Thanks to the support of the program, she knows she has options and is really motivated to go to USC!”