Gabriel Mendoza served on the 2014-2015 City Year team at Jordan High School in South L.A. He graduated from UCLA in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and currently attends the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. We gathered our corps to hear from Gabriel about his transition from service to medical school. This is what he had to say:
“City Year really was more challenging than my first semester at med school. I wouldn't say it's close. I remember speaking with another CY alum who is in his third year at med school. He mentioned how City Year had prepared him for med school, making med school almost a breeze, actually. When I heard that, I was like, 'Really? How could med school be a breeze?'
City Year was definitely physically demanding. Waking up at 6 a.m. every day was hard.
You might think that med school is more mentally challenging, but creating those ‘Student Support Maps’ and lesson plans, they really take a lot out of you! I remember I stared at them blankly initially. It's way more straightforward to have to remember different chambers of the heart. I think in that way City Year prepared me for the mental challenges of med school.
Lastly, emotionally, I think that is where City Year was most challenging. I had students that dealt with a lot of different things throughout the year. I had a student whose mother passed away, making it hard for him to concentrate in class.
I had a student who one day, I noticed she was acting a little bit funny. Her coordination was off. Normally her writing is very legible, and on this day it was illegible. I also noticed her speech was slurred and suspected she was under the influence of something. I was concerned so I had to tell the staff. It was really a tough thing to do.
Paramedics came to make sure she was okay. The next day when she came back, as I expected, she was furious with me. She called me a ‘snitch’, and other not-so-nice things. She just started lashing out at me. It was hard, emotionally, on me.
I was a having a really tough time. I know we all go through some real low points. I would say persevere through those.
Towards the end of the school year, maybe the last month of service, I was in math class tutoring another student, then she came up to me. I was expecting the worst. I wasn’t sure what she was going to say or if she was going to lash out at me. But then she said this: ‘I’m so grateful for the way you’ve helped me this year. I’m sorry I’ve been so mean to you.’
I think I’ve been speechless at other times in my service as well, and with this moment I didn’t know what to say. ‘Th-thank you’ was all that came out.
It was definitely one of the most emotionally demanding experiences I had at City Year.”