York College Veterans Manage Education, Family, and Military Service
Kadith Mendoza ’24 and Hannah Mendoza-Orozco ‘23 know how important balance is to their lives.
The couple, who have two daughters, both served in the military full-time, in addition to working to complete their York College degrees. Both Hannah and Kadith credit the College for being accommodating during their experiences balancing their family and service with a full-bodied education.
“I'm glad we're here,” Hannah says.
Hannah and Kadith met in the Army in 2017, at joint base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska. Hannah was serving as a Specialist, and Kadith was a Sergeant. After Hannah gave birth to their two daughters, she received an honorable discharge to take care of them while Kadith was still serving, staying on the Elmendorf-Richardson base.
“There has never been a dull moment,” Kadith says wryly.
After Kadith was discharged, the couple moved back to where Hannah grew up in Havre de Grace, Maryland.
“We're living in the house that I grew up in, ironically,” Hannah says, laughing.
Hannah, who is a Hospitality Management major, initially began her education at York College in 2015. Several factors – the military only allows active full-time service members to complete two courses at a time in order to focus on their service and the birth of her two children – caused her to take time off from her education. After she decided to finish her degree at York, Kadith also started his degree in Accounting at the College.
“I told him how much I loved YCP when I went, and that I wanted to finish there because I started there. We went to a couple of different schools when we were on active duty, but they don't let you take a lot of classes,” Hannah explains. “But we're currently transferring everything over here and finishing at York College.”
Staying the course
Balancing parenthood, education, and military service has been challenging, but Kadith and Hannah have made it work.
For Hannah, the Hospitality Management program has been a major part of her overall York College experience. She credits the program with giving her plenty of experiential learning opportunities to get the real-world knowledge she’ll need once she graduates.
“I love York College. It was my only choice when I was 17 and it's my only choice now, because I love the Hospitality Management program,” she says.
A particularly meaningful experience for Hannah was her time in the Commercial Food Production course in the fall of 2016. The course, which was run by her advisor Dr. Joseph Scarcelli, was instrumental in helping her understand the world of hospitality and roles within the field.
“We served hundreds of people in that course. It was really cool to learn all the terminology that you'd be using in the kitchen,” she adds. “We all took on roles as a sous chef and the head chef and more. That was an amazing experience on how to work in a true kitchen with other people. It prepared us for the outside world.”
For Kadith, his professors both in the Accounting Department and beyond have made his experience all the more influential. He credits them with helping him solidify his decision to choose York College as his alma mater.
“Like anything in life, college can be very challenging and sometimes fast-paced, yet I love a challenge and figuring out the best course of action or method of approach to accomplishing the task ahead,” he explains.
His professors, he says, have helped him do just that.
“My favorite experience or experiences are when I meet a professor who truly loves teaching and makes every effort to make the class an interesting, safe, fun, and an open-minded environment,” he adds. “The professors are always available to help and guide you, which is something I have always appreciated, and this gave me more confidence in choosing to remain a part of the YCP family.”
In addition to their education, both Hannah and Kadith have had well-rounded experiences at York. Kadith is a member of Phi Sigma Pi, and Hannah lived on campus for her first year. That experience, she explains, is one that impacted her greatly.
“When I was a first-year student, I had a great experience living in the dorms. I met a lot of great people that I'm still friends with today. One of them is the godmother of my kids,” she says. “So, I think it's really great to be able to connect and live with other people, and have that chance to build a whole new friend group that you're going to have for the rest of your life.”
When it comes to navigating college as parents, students, and veterans, Kadith knows he can count on his fellow veterans.
“Regardless of which branch they are from, and despite all the jokes we make amongst each other, when it comes to being there for your fellow brothers and sisters, they will always be my first pick,” Kadith explains. “I trust those who I served alongside with, those who have served in the past, and those who continue to serve to always have my back.”
Despite challenges, Hannah and Kadith are living proof that serving your country, being a parent, and having an active and full college career is possible.
“You have to make it work. You don’t get a lot of sleep, or have a lot of free time, but it definitely is possible,” Hannah says.