Petersburg valedictorian Georgina Mendoza took an unorthodox path to the top of her class

Posted at 11:05 PM, Jun 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-28 23:05:14-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- While you may have seen Georgina Mendoza working at Publix in Colonial Heights, odds are you don't know her story.

The part-time job is just part of the 18-year-old graduate's busy life.

Mendoza recently walked across the graduation stage not once, but twice this year.

Not only did she graduate as valedictorian of Petersburg High School, she also earned Associates Degree from Richard Bland College.

"It’s truly an honor to be Valedictorian for Petersburg High School Class of 2023," Mendoza said. "I really wanted to get those credits and get the head start cause I always knew wanted to go to college. So I just thought it would be great to have those two years of general courses out of the way."

Mendoza said she has always loved to learn.

"In elementary school, I cried because school was over while everyone else was excited they were out of school," he said.

The child of Mexican immigrants said she often felt out of place as one of the few students with a Latin American heritage. She said her situation improved in middle school as the study body grew and became more diverse.

Things changed again when it was time to go to high school.

"I didn’t really have that high school experience because, after 9th grade, 10th was virtual [due to COVID-19]," she said. "For 11th and 12th grade, I was at Richard Bland College.”

That college experience opened up a whole new world for the teenage student.

"I loved it at Richard Bland," she said. "When I thought middle school was Diverse, [college was] way more diverse.”

Mendoza's success has of course made her family very proud.

“She works very hard," Georgina’s mother Emelia Mendoza said.

While Mendoza said she loves working at Publix, she really wants to focus on mental health.

"I want to get my Master's Degree in Counselor Education," she said. "I want to be that person in the school that someone can go and talk to. I want to be there for them.”

Mendoza had plenty of options to continue her education. She was accepted to all 13 universities where she applied. She plans to initially head to Virginia State University to earn her bachelor's degree over the next two years.

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