A Proteus Gem Teresa Mendoza

A Proteus Gem

Teresa Mendoza

 

Teresa Mendoza and her family immigrated to the United States from a small, poor community in Oaxaco, Mexico in 1998.  Teresa was only eight years old, but was very aware of the hardship her family endured and the hopes they had of a better life in the United States.   Settling in Kerman, California, the family began harvesting strawberries and grapes and Teresa enrolled in school. Unfortunately, educating Teresa and her siblings proved difficult because they did not speak English or Spanish, and there were no interpreters available that spoke her native language, Mixteco.  

 

In 2000, Teresa and her siblings were referred to Proteus and provided tutoring, food, clothing, and INS assistance through the youth program.  After several months of tutoring in English, Teresa began to read and understand English better and continued to learn on her own until she graduated from Kerman High School in 2006.  During these early years in the United States, her family would migrate to Oregon to harvest berries and then return to Kerman to harvest raisin grapes. Unfortunately her father had frequent asthma attacks and was often unable to work, so Teresa and her siblings would have to work in the fields to make ends meet.  In addition, the young Teresa had the responsibility of accompanying her father to doctor visits to act as interpreter. This was frustrating to Teresa and her family because they felt they were treated differently because her father did not speak English or Spanish. At this moment, Teresa knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.  She would become a medical assistant to assist others in similar situations.

 

Teresa enrolled in Fresno City College, but her plans were quickly derailed when her father unexpectedly passed away.  Using all her savings to return to Mexico for the funeral, Teresa was unable to continue with tuition and books. The birth of her first child, and the need to help support her growing family, forced Teresa to return to the fields.  Her dream of becoming a medical assistant was never far from her mind.

Petite and seemingly shy, Teresa’s case manager quickly refutes this notion, describing her instead, as a confident young woman who knew exactly what she wanted when she returned to Proteus in 2010. She wanted to return to school.  Teresa was enrolled in Proteus’s Department of Labor (DOL) farmworker program and was provided tuition and transportation costs that enabled her to enroll in the Medical Assistant Training Program at UEI College in Fresno. Teresa was awarded perfect attendance four times while in training and was an honor roll student.  She graduated from UEI in August, 2011 and completed her Internship at United Health Center in Kerman shortly after. One month later, Teresa was hired as a clinical medical assistant at Valley Health Team in San Joaquin. She is making a good wage with benefits, and is currently in the process of closing escrow on her first home.  

 

Teresa’s father moved his family to the United States in order to provide them with a better life.  “If my dad was alive today, he would be very proud. He would be happy that I am no longer working in the fields and doing something I always wanted to do,” states Teresa.  

 

Thank you Teresa for sharing your update on a story that began over 15 years ago.  You are an inspiration to us all.

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