Communication graduate has plans to attend law school at ASU
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.
Communication graduate Valentino Mejia has not let any grass grow under his feet while at Arizona State University.
Beginning his freshman year, Mejia has held several student worker jobs across campus to pay for his meals, transportation and books. He also went on a Summer Study Abroad program to Barcelona, Spain, and now holds not one, but two jobs, as a volunteer services coordinator for the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity and as a recruiter for the Tempe company DriveTime.
The Casa Grande native is graduating in spring 2022 with a bachelor's degree from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.
Even before he started taking classes, Mejia was already immersed at ASU, participating as a high school student in two summer programs, the César E. Chávez Leadership Institute and the W. P. Carey Fleischers Scholars program.
"In both programs, I was able to stay in the dorms and experience student life with other high school students who were like-minded," said Meija. "Ever since these programs, I knew that I wanted to be a Sun Devil because the campus was familiar to me and I could envision my future at ASU."
Mejia says that while finding time for all his activities was difficult at times, he knew he wanted to challenge himself so that he would be able to grow from the experiences.
"Many of the leadership positions and extracurricular activities were very rewarding in a way that allowed me to make a change and impact the lives of others," said Mejia. "This is what kept me going along with the development I gained in my personal, academic and career life."
We caught up with Mejia and asked a few questions about his experience at ASU.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study communication?
Answer: The moment I realized I wanted to study communication was when I was talking with my high school counselor and she mentioned that I was a great communicator. My counselor's belief in me made me feel confident in my communication abilities; therefore, I wanted to study human communication so that I could eventually teach other people how to be confident and effective communicators in their life. Since then, I have always had a passion for learning about people and why they do the things they do.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: One major lesson that I’ve learned while at ASU is how important the influence of higher education was in helping me live a better and happier life. Higher education granted me the ability to trust that I have the power to influence other people’s lives for the better along with challenging myself to seek the answers to the hard questions and experiences that I am faced with in life. By attending a large university to obtain a bachelor’s degree in communication, I have accumulated a number of lenses that have shaped my perception of my life and the role I want to play in the world. Without my degree, I would have not been able to identify and explain the way I create meaning in my life and how I can share my knowledge with others to create meaning in their lives.
Q: Do you have any favorite classes or teachers? If so, why were they your favorites?
A: Some of my favorite classes were USL 210: University Service Learning, COM 310: Relational Communication and COM 452: Communication and Happiness. All three of these classes were very interactive, and they all provided useful tools for understanding the role of interpersonal and intrapersonal communication in my life. With USL 210, I appreciated the internship requirement that allowed me to experience working with a nonprofit organization. I was paired with a nonprofit known as Maggie’s Place, which is a homeless shelter for pregnant women who are recovering from issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health issues.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: The advice I would give to students still in school would be to take care of yourself as you navigate through stress and the pressure of being in college. Self-care should be your top priority. I’d also mention enjoying school because when it is all over, you will miss college and the fun experiences.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: My favorite spot on campus was the Memorial Union and the Secret Garden because they both are close to each other and they are both different. If I was in a chill mood where I wanted to study and think about life, I would go to the Secret Garden, and if I wanted to socialize and eat, I enjoyed going to the Memorial Union.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation, I am taking a year off to continue gaining work experience with my corporate job, DriveTime, and my nonprofit job Habitat for Humanity. DriveTime is a used car and finance company where I work in the talent acquisition department as a recruiter and Habitat for Humanity where I am an AmeriCorps member with my title being the volunteer services coordinator. Both positions have offered me a promotion and a full position opportunity after college, and as of right now, I am deciding if I will go the nonprofit or corporate route in my career. Eventually, after taking a year off and getting work experience, I want to attend graduate school to earn a master’s degree in human resources and employment law at ASU.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would tackle the issue of mental health. Our mental health as humans is vital to our life on Earth; therefore, we should never have to worry about taking care of our mental health due to not having money. In college, I experienced several mental health crises that I did not think I would experience, and it gave me a new perspective on advocating to take care of our mental health.