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Ma Estela Mendoza has taken many critical steps to earn a bright future. The 18-year old student who attended Oxon Hill High School has always been on the Principal’s Honor Roll, by earning a 4.0 grade point average or higher, during the majority of her enrollment. The College Board recognized her as a 2013 Advanced Placement Scholar with Honor.

The valedictorian of Oxon Hill’s Class of 2014 is on her way to achieving more great accomplishments. Attending Howard University is one of them. Mendoza is a recipient of Howard University’s Capstone Scholarship. On May 23, the oldest of three children will graduate and embark upon the next phase of her journey in life and scholarship. Mendoza moved from the Philippines in 2006, then settled in Prince George’s County, Md.

“When I first got here, I didn’t know how to speak English as well as my peers,” Mendoza said.

Today, Mendoza speaks English and Tagalog. She founded the Oxon Hill Chapter of The National Math Honor Society and served as president. Mendoza’s drive to achieve exceptional academic performance is just one aspect of her life. As Mendoza shares more details, it becomes apparent that she is well-rounded. She describes herself as a very artsy person. Mendoza placed twice in an Air Force-wide talent competition called U Got Talent, in addition to participating in many local singing contests.

“I play acoustic guitar. I sing everything from John Legend to Lauryn Hill to Taylor Swift. It’s a variety,” Mendoza remarked.

The graduating senior now loves math and has taken a total of 10 AP courses, although she admits that she did not like homework when she was younger. Mendoza said that she realized that her parents, Hilario and Maura Mendoza, moved from their homeland in the Philippines where she was born, to enable their children to have a better future. Mendoza credits her parents as being motivators.

“I don’t want to just quit them. I don’t want all of their hard work to just go into nothing. I just want both of them to be proud.”

Mendoza’s family has strong ties to the military and Joint Base Andrews. Her father served in the Army. One uncle retired from the Air Force. Her parents work on the base. Mendoza volunteered at the Joint Base Andrews Youth Center. In 2012, Mendoza was also selected as Joint Base Andrew’s Youth of the Year. She was eager to complete her 24 volunteer hours that she needed to graduate high school. After some of her friends began volunteering at the Joint Base Andrews Youth Center, she signed up. Mendoza said that she volunteered from freshman year of high school until Dec. 2013.

“One of my most memorable projects was creating a mural for the entrance of the Youth Center. I painted that with my sister. Apart from there, I volunteered at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church where I was a Conformation candidate. I volunteered at the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center, while I was in the summer program for Howard University. I volunteered at Clinton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for a research project for school,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza is already busy charting her course to continue moving forward. Howard University’s Capstone Scholarship covers tuition and fees, but Mendoza will have to pay for books and food. The new high school graduate plans to major in Nursing. Mendoza will look for outside scholarships and work.

“I’m getting a summer job. As much as possible, I’m trying to save for necessities.”

Mendoza said that she does not want to stop creating art, singing, and playing musical instruments, just because she plans to work in the medical field.

“I wish that I could be the best example for my siblings to continue our legacy.”