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A story of two sisters who followed different paths.
Alma glances at the door. Ever the older sister, she's waiting for Angela, who is eight years younger than her. When Angela walks in, they both break out into a wide grin. It's been like this for decades.
Alma Mendez '00 remembers Angela Mendez '07 coming to UMD to visit. They're so close, the visits have never stopped.
Fun and Learning
Alma loved UMD, and she shared that with her sister.
Alma and her friends loved going to downtown Duluth and Superior. Some favorite activities were Improv night, sledding in Bagley, and exploring the North Shore of Lake Superior. Angela sometimes came along.
"UMD was great for me because it challenged me academically, and I grew as a person," Alma says. She had supportive professors. "They were available whenever I needed help."
Angela has vivid memories of her high school visits to Alma at UMD. It wasn't a surprise that she followed her sister to college, however there were other factors. "I didn't want to go very far because my father was ill," Angela says.
Susana Pelayo-Woodward, director for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, played a pivotal part in Angela's life. "She helped me in my transition to college, and was there for me when my father passed away."
Susana helped Angela take care of her mom and continue college. "We still stay in touch," Angela says.
Angela was one of the three students who put on the first SPAT (Students Promoting Awareness through Teaching) event. The group wanted to end campus silence around racism. The SPAT event encouraged students to speak out and protest racial bias. Speak outs like this continue today.
The three students, Yia Yang, Angela, and David Comer, chose professors David Syring and Mitra Emad as the initial faculty advisors to SPAT. "Syring and Emad were positive influences for me, because they encouraged me to be curious and helped me develop language and framework to my experiences," Angela says. "It was because of their cultural studies classes that I decided to become a marriage and family therapist because marriage and family therapy assesses, challenges, and influences social systems on many levels."
Angela got involved with another aspect of campus life, the Fiesta. She performed and taught the dances of Mexico to other students for the annual celebration.
Staying in Touch
Alma got a UMD degree in teaching secondary social studies and taught in the St. Paul Public Schools for 11 years. She is now at Minnesota Connections Academy, where she teaches online to students in grades eight and high school across Minnesota. She also teaches part-time for Minneapolis Public Schools, in the adult education ESL program.
Angela received her degree in psychology from UMD. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in various settings in the mental health field. She currently works with first generation college students and students of color at the Dougherty Family College at the University of St. Thomas.
Both sisters visit UMD. They come to reconnect with Susana Pelayo-Woodward, and every once in a while, they attend the UMD Fiesta.