Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rio Graduate Earns Multiple Honors

Oliva Mendez with MCCCD
Chancellor Maria Harper-Marinick

The civic advocate and future educator credits her single mother for being her inspiration to achieve.


Congratulations to Rio Salado College graduate Oliva Mendez for earning several academic and civic accolades. Mendez recently received a place in the Miracle Corners of the World (MCW) Young Leaders Access program, the Maricopa Community Colleges Chancellor’s Civic Leadership Medallion, and the Soroptimist International Live Your Dream award.

The young leader also earned an associate of arts degree from Rio Salado in May – making this spring a particularly memorable time.

Mendez credits her single mother, who left Mexico in pursuit of a better life, for reinforcing the value of hard work.

“My mother would work long hours, arrive home when the kids were asleep, and leave before we woke up,” Mendez said. “We communicated with her through notes.”


Following her mother’s example, Mendez applied for multiple academic scholarships and programs to give herself leadership and volunteer opportunities.

Leadership Preparation


Mendez is one of 50 students internationally to be selected for the MCW Young Leaders Access Program, an intensive, year-long program for youth who want to contribute to positive change.

She is currently attending the group’s “Young Leaders Incubator” program in New York City and Vermont, where participants create action plans to address community issues.

“My project is to encourage the youth population of Arizona to learn more about public policy and how to be civically engaged in our community,” Mendez said.


“My goal is to increase awareness on the local level, then state, national, and eventually global.”

During the remainder of the year, young leaders will implement their plans with the assistance of mentors and online workshops.

Civic Participation


While studying at Rio Salado College, Mendez became active with Arizona Town Hall, a non-profit organization that brings diverse people together to solve critical policy issues.

“I learned how coming together as a community and finding common ground can help find solutions to the issues that no one wants to talk about, like immigration,” Mendez said.


She also served as co-president of Rio Salado’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society chapter, and directed a project that emphasized employability skills.

Her Arizona Town Hall and PTK involvement earned Mendez the Chancellor’s Civic Leadership Medallion, which highlights and promotes student civic participation and leadership.

In addition, Mendez received the Live Your Dream award and grant from the Soroptimist International of Phoenix. The organization empowers women and girls and conveyed the award to Mendez to help her pursue her dream of becoming an educator of children.

Next Steps


Mendez is planning to enroll in Rio Salado’s Elementary Education degree program this fall.

“I still plan on attending school to fulfill my goal to be a global educator,” she said. “I will begin my career by teaching third grade in Arizona once I graduate from university.”