Doing school alone made it hard for her, so when she joined TRiO, a program that helps students with various challenges, she felt the weight lift off her shoulders.
“TRiO saved my life. They helped me with tutoring and helped me in advising. TRiO helped me find my place here,” she said.
Once Mencias found her place, she became a passport peer mentor, where she found more people who struggled and learned that she wasn’t alone.
When hearing everyone’s challenges in their life, she used her voice for them. She goes to the Board of Trustees and speaks for students.
Mencias is also part of the Equity Task Force team, which has been working on updating the college’s mission and values statement.
and give as much feedback to make sure no other student falls,” she said. “Nor do they have the same experiences that I’ve had.”
Challenges help student find purpose in life
Kaili Nakaya • Staff Reporter
Being a mother is hard. Being a student is hard. Having both in your hands is hard to juggle, and Mirian Mencias (MJ) was able to do it all.
Mencias has been at Highline for two and a half years, completing her GED and her associate of arts degree.
She plans to major in political science at the University of Washington.
As a mother of five, she has faced many struggles starting college.
“I would be lying to you if I told you that I have everything together,” she said. “There have been many times when I have fallen apart and cried myself to sleep.”
Mencias said she sometimes felt as if she was excelling in one spot but failing in the other.
“I didn’t have it all together at moments. I was succeeding as a student but failing as a mother and there were times where I felt like I was a mom of the year and failed as a student,” she said.
Trying to keep her personal and school life together was difficult for her. There were days when she just wanted to be a mom and be with her children, Mencias said.
Children and people around kept her motivated to continue, she said.
“I always tell people that it’s because of my daughter that I came back to school,” she said. “My oldest told me ‘If you go to school then I’ll go to school’ and that’s how this journey got started.”
Before she completed her GED, Mencias faced an injury that took a turn in her life.
“I got into a car accident that left me angry, bitter, and unable to do what I used to love, which was cooking,” she said.
She spent 15 years cooking, and when that accident hurt her back, she felt a part of her get taken away, Mencias said.
Mencias still struggles with back pain from the accident, and she said that it has made her change and evolve for the next steps in her life.
As she went through with school, she wanted to stay in the food industry, but Mencias was shown other options at Highline.
“I wanted to stay in the food industry, but thanks to the struggles that I was confronted with at Highline, I found out that I had a voice, and it was important to stand up for others who didn’t,” she said.
When Mencias started at Highline, she noticed how difficult it was. She started school during the pandemic and was having a hard time with classes.
Highline gave Mencias opportunities that she thought were unimaginable, she said.
“I wasn’t shut down, I was given a platform where I was able to express myself,” she said. “TRiO provided me with scholarships and internships, and I’m extremely grateful for TRiO.”
Mencias expressed her gratitude for everyone who’s helped her succeed at Highline.
“I am extremely grateful to TRiO and to all the women who run TRiO, and to Dr. Mosby as well. He made space for me and it’s truly impactful where the president is going to take time out of his day to meet with students,” she said.
Mencias said she now is grateful for what she has been through because without that, she wouldn’t have found her purpose in life.
“I needed to go through the good, the bad, the ugly, to get to the place I am today,” Mencias said.