First-generation student paves the way for other Chicanx/Latinx students

“I feel proud to be here as a first-generation student”



WSU Senior Maritay Mendoza-Quiroz is graduating with dual degrees and the President’s Award for Leadership.

GREY KAMASZ, Evergreen reporter

Mentor, leader, student advisor and first-generation student Maritay Mendoza-Quiroz is graduating with dual degrees, honors and the President’s Award for Leadership while breaking down barriers and representing the Chixanx/Lantix community.

“I feel proud to be here as a first-generation student. As an immigrant student, it is hard to focus on what you want to do, especially because you have other things in your head. I feel proud that I managed to be here, stay here and finish these four years,” she said.  

Mendoza-Quiroz is majoring in political science pre-law in foreign languages and cultures with an additional major in Spanish. She chose these majors because she always wanted to help her community. 

“Since I arrived in the United States, I worked during the summers in the fields and have heard many stories,” she said. “I have connected with many people and listened to their struggles and fear of being in this country motivated me to become an immigration lawyer.” 

Mendoza-Quiroz said few Latinx/Chicanx students of color were taking political science classes. The limited diversity caused her to wonder if she belonged in this field.

“Even though you can experience those thoughts or feel that way, my degrees and the rest of the degrees are for us, and we deserve to be there, take those classes and get those degrees,” she said.

Mendoza-Quiroz said her favorite class was Introduction to Chicanx Latinx Studies because she learned the importance of representation. She also learned the history of being Chicanx Latinx in higher education.

 “[My professor] gave me a perspective of past movements, like the Chicanx Movement, inspire others to represent the students, act and help students of color in higher education,” she said. “The class readings we had gave me a better understanding of my background and inspired me to be part of a change and help my community and the students around me.”

Mendoza-Quiroz said she attended WSU mainly because of the financial support they offered her. She also chose WSU because of a former Coug. The sister of a high school friend told Mendoza-Quiroz about the WSU community, the on-campus experience and the town of Pullman. She was inspired to attend WSU. 

One of Mendoza-Quiroz’s favorite memories was during the spring semester of her sophomore year. She and her friends walked around campus from midnight through 2 a.m., telling scary stories.

“At the end, we were running around campus, laughing and thinking about our time at WSU,” Mendoza-Quiroz said. “We were so excited to have accomplished our sophomore year and continue into our junior and senior years.”

Stepheny Lopez, a senior with dual degrees in Comparative Ethics Studies and Sociology, is a close friend of Mendoza-Quiroz. Lopez said they met in high school and have been friends since. 

Lopez described Mendoza-Quiroz as successful, caring, outgoing, determined and passionate. Mendoza-Quiroz is a person who does all she can when it comes to social justice, education, homework, and helping the undocumented community, Lopez said. 

She said one of her favorite memories of Mendoza-Quiroz was taking graduation pictures with her last month.

“This was one of the best memories I have with her because we got to share this special moment as we are graduating this year,” Lopez said. “It is something I have known since high school, and taking pictures together resembles the strong friendship we established here in college.”

While at WSU, Mendoza-Quiroz held the position of co-chair in many organizations, like The Crimson Group, which supports undocumented students. She was a co-chair and student advisor for The Crimson Group for two years this past year. She also served as Co-Chair for Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan or MECHA de WSU.

“Working with these two organizations helped me grow as a leader and motivated me to keep helping students and help my community,” she said. “I now know the struggles of first-generation students and the immigrant community, which helped me connect with communities like myself and others on campus.”

Mendoza-Quiroz was also a mentor for the Office of Multicultural Student Services and the College Assistance Migrant Program. She said joining these programs helped her acknowledge that there are students out there who are like her.

Looking back, Mendoza-Quiroz said she is proud of overcoming a language barrier in her first year and becoming the person she is today. 

“I feel proud that I am a first-generation immigrant student able to break up barriers, stay here and create representation for others,” she said. “I am paving the way for the future generations and students that might have or share the same experiences I did.”

After graduating from WSU, Mendoza-Quiroz said she will begin studying for the LSAT and plans to take the test next year. She hopes to attend Stanford Law School and later enter the political field as an immigration lawyer and provide resources and opportunities for her community.

Leaving WSU, Mendoza-Quiroz gives students three pieces of advice: never forget where you come from and your focus, do not be afraid to ask for help, and it is okay to feel your emotions.