Student Spotlight: Juan Mendoza

September 22, 2021

As a kid, film and psychology major Juan Mendoza was drawn to television programs and movies as an entertaining escape from a hectic life that included time in the foster care system. Now as an ECC student, Mendoza has turned his love for TV into a career pathway.

This past summer, Mendoza was selected as just one of 50 students chosen from across the country to participate in the Television Academy Foundation's 2019 Internship Program. Mendoza interned in the creative affairs/production department at Shonda Rhimes' Los Angeles-based Shondaland production company, which produces "Grey's Anatomy," "Station 19," "Scandal," and "How to Get Away With Murder" – an experience he called "life changing."

"I was able to go into different departments and learn how things are done behind the scenes," he said. "Seeing the entire process from beginning to end was just mind blowing. The Television Academy and Shondaland have definitely changed my life with this opportunity, and I was extremely grateful and happy every single day I walked into the studio."

And yet, it got even better. He attended the 71st Emmy Awards!

"Not only did I attend the Emmys, I walked the red carpet, saw so many celebrities I admire, and just experienced the whole thing," he said. "That moment changed so much for me because it made me realize that if you really want something, you can do it, no matter your past, your mistakes, etc. It doesn't define you; you can accomplish anything if you work for it. Just keep getting back up. Now I plan on being on that stage one day, winning an Emmy of my own."

Mendoza enrolled in El Camino College after deciding to change his path that so far had him on his own after an unstable childhood that included multiple moves and neighborhood violence.

"I wanted to become someone who could make an impact and help others, follow my dreams, and be someone I could be proud of," he said. "So, I took a chance on myself and with support from the community at El Camino College, I can say I am proud of who I am and how far I have come. I cannot wait for what the future has in store."

Mendoza credits his success to the college's Guardian Scholars Program, which provides a welcoming and supportive environment for current and former foster youth.

"I failed a math test and was about to give up, but Keiana Daniel in the Guardian Scholars Program convinced me not to. She helped me study and pass the class; she wouldn't give up on me even when I was ready to give up on myself. She does this for every student and continues to push us to be our very best. I ended up passing the math class, which I never thought was possible, and since then I have not failed a single class.

"Other programs like EOPS and KEAS are also there when I need help with classes, tutoring, financial aid, or anything at all; their doors are always open for the students. There is a community for everyone at El Camino College; you're always supported and you're never alone."