Mr. Mendoza, Ferguson’s New CAP Advisor
The office with its bright colors and loud posters buzzes with energy, and this change is all thanks to Gabriel Mendoza, John A. Ferguson’s new CAP counselor. His enthusiasm radiates and works its way into all the students that come to see him for advice on anything, ranging from college applications to feedback on college essays. Despite the workload that can come with helping a school of 4,300- plus students, Mendoza always has time to ease any concerns.
Having grown up right here in Miami, Mendoza is very familiar with the area and all the state schools. He even says with great confidence, “… I know Miami inside and out.” However, don’t think for a second he has no experience outside the state. In fact, Mendoza got his degree from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and after changing his major three times, living there for six years, studying, and working, he moved back to Miami. “I feel like I got to see another side of America,” emphasizing the historical value of living in Tennessee. It’s here that Mendoza met someone who has continued to be an influence on his life.
While studying at MTSU, Mendoza met Music Theory and Composition Professor Michael “Mike” Linton who changed his world by teaching him how to think. “To understand something you have to understand its opposite- what it is and what it isn’t,” Mendoza explains. “After that class, I was really happy and excited to learn anything. It really has… it’s been the difference.” His admiration for Professor Linton really shines through when Mendoza talks about visiting his professor and writing to him to keep him updated on his life, even telling him when he got the job at Ferguson.
“Learning how to learn”, as he puts it, is a big part of Mendoza’s life, both personally and professionally. “I obsess over learning how to learn.” He’s always working to evolve his frame of mind. Of course, there are many ways to do this but the ones that take up the most of his time include music and reading. It’s then that he pulls out a sheet of paper with rhythms written across it and says that “all [he] thinks about is how [he] can learn to be as good as [he] wants to be?”
He even says that music has taught him a lot of lessons about life and especially on perseverance. Mendoza explains that being a bad musician and then being crazy enough to keep practicing to finally become good has taught him a lot about life and even compares it to the college experience where people will learn and gain insight from professionals in their field and use it to move forward. “I believe that’s the same process anybody will go through to get anything… you have to be with the right people. You can’t do it alone. Strangely enough, it’s about family, friends, and neighbors.”
As far as being an advisor to the student body, Mendoza has been gladly welcomed with open arms by those who need him most- the students themselves. Mendoza has worked in other schools, mostly private, but he sees something different in this group of students.. “The enthusiasm from the student body is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” attributing it to the go-getter attitude he sees in all the students who come for help. He even says that’s what he’s enjoying the most here. However, Mendoza really stresses that it is never his place to tell someone yes or no, or that a school is good or bad. He will provide information to allow the student to make the choice because in his experience live comes down to choices. “It’s all choices… choices start to drive opportunities.” Through this process of asking the right questions and getting to know the students, Mendoza not only offers the necessary guidance but helps them learn how to make decisions and gauge risks. This position here has allowed him to find what he classifies as a meaningful job, which is more important to him than anyone can truly grasp. It is, after all, the satisfaction of the job which continues to motivate him to keep learning because every day there is a new obstacle to overcome and a new student to help. “It’s never the same information. “That’s why I enjoy this, it’s never the same job.” Mendoza’s motivation to come to work every day is the idea of him making a difference in the lives of his students.
If there’s one thing that students will learn after walking in Mr. Mendoza’s office is that no matter the grade level, the meaning is key and with passion, anything is possible- even getting a couple hundred graduating seniors ready for life beyond high school.
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