From the Nailhouse to MIT

Olivia Woods Encinal High School senior Julian Mendoza works at his desk. He will be heading for MIT in the fall, the first member of his family to attend college.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a top- ranked university that students dream of attending. Out of the 18,357 students who applied for admission to the 2014 freshman class, the Institute admitted 1,419 students, pegging the admission rate at 7.7 percent. Julian Mendoza, a senior at Encinal High School, is among that 7.7 percent.

Mendoza is the youngest of five children, the first in his family to be born in America, as well as the first to attend college. His parents, Rosa and Nicanor Mendoza, are not that familiar with the American education system. They gave their son the space to succeed and learn at his own pace. Julian describes his environment as “usually silent, which allows for me to have my own thoughts without disruption.”

Julian’s older brother Rigoberto helped Julian succeed in middle school by keeping track of Julian’s grades. However, much of Julian’s success is due to his own drive and desire for higher learning. He has been interested in computers since he was seven. He was never satisfied with the old “it works just because” response that so many children are accustomed to hearing. He began taking computers apart and putting them back together, eventually learning the inside workings of a computer and how it ticks. After that, he eventually moved on to learn software coding and programming.

He uses these self-teaching skills in his academic classes and absorbs the material in a more in depth fashion. This year he is planning on taking six AP Exams, one of which he is studying on his own for: AP Calculus BC.

Over the summer, he was able to utilize and improve these skills in an MIT summer program known as Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES). This program accepts about 80 juniors from a pool of about 2,000 applicants.

MITES introduces the students to a rigorous course load where they can study subjects like physics or engineering design. This intense program simulated true college life where the teachers’ pacing is quick and the students are often left to their own accord to truly grasp and understand the material.

Julian successfully completed MITES and decided to apply to MIT in the middle of a challenging senior year. He has been interested in this school since he was in sixth grade and has strived to reach this goal. This year, he is excelling in all his classes which consists of five AP courses.

He will be graduating in the top 1 percent of his class and will no doubt continue to flourish at MIT.

Olivia Woods is a student at Encinal High School.