Developing a passion for learning and growing

Maya Mendoza '03

Burien, Washington

I am an attorney in Burien, Wash., in a firm that is just my father and me. We are among a dying breed of generalists in the legal field--kind of like family-practice doctors for small businesses. Our work is ever-changing and ever-challenging--and yet I get to bring my dog to work. The firm’s size has allowed me the autonomy to continue my “other” job: coaching soccer at Puget Sound. I also work as the director of coaching for Highline Premier FC, a youth soccer club in south Seattle and the club that I grew up playing for.

I think the thing that has stuck with me most from my time at Puget Sound is a passion for learning and growing, and knowing that I am far from a finished product, but prepared for the challenges and changes that life will bring me over the next 30 years.

I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. I'm very happy with my current busy schedule at the law firm. Ultimately, though, my heart is in the volunteer work I do. It is absolutely essential to me; it’s like a drug, to feel I can make a difference in my community, and I am my best self when I'm working with young people or the underserved. I am passionate about kids having access to all of the things that shaped my life--soccer, sports generally, art and theater, science and exploration, and being challenged to dream big, think big, and act big. I regularly volunteer with the Housing Justice Project and King County Bar Association Legal Clinics, and am a past president and current trustee on the Highline Schools Foundation. So I am equally excited by the parts of my day that are spent trolling through the minutiae of a complicated contract and being able to put that legalese into layman's terms for my clients and the opportunity to work alongside students, athletes, and young people. Maybe I should be a teacher!

As a former UPS soccer-team player, I am constantly reminded about how I acquired skills that others could not--beyond the platitudes often shared in this vein. For example, I found myself, a newly minted attorney, standing in a hallway outside a courtroom before my first oral argument for a paying client, feeling the rise of a deep-down rush of competition, sweaty palms, and a creeping doubt. Without thinking, I caught myself reciting the same mantra that would flow through my head as an internal monologue on Tough-Girl Tuesday, the heavy fitness day of our training schedule for Puget Sound soccer. Magically, I became calmed, focused, and ready to compete; and I won the argument. I had so many passions at Puget Sound--and Puget Sound encouraged, nurtured, and cheered those passions.

When I was applying to colleges, Puget Sound was the last school I thought about. It was not even known to me as a high school student (in life before the robust information on the Internet). I had settled on several well-regarded liberal arts schools because I knew I wanted to study history or politics but also play a high level of soccer. So I was looking at schools that had been in the Final Four at Division III the two previous years. I applied to both and got into both. When it came time to think about an in-state option, I was sent a letter by UPS women’s soccer coach Randy Hanson, whom I had known for several years as a youth coach and family friend. He recruited me.

Honestly, I decided on Puget Sound for two reasons. The first was knowing that as an athlete I would become a better player under Coach Hanson—he is a teacher. The second was sitting in on a western civ class taught by history Professor David Smith. I’d sat in on western civ classes at the other universities I visited. I was bored stiff, but not in Professor Smith's class--I wanted to raise my hand and contribute! I had planned a degree in politics, but I fell in love with history so I majored in both. I was fortunate enough to be an All-American at Puget Sound and on the first Northwest Conference Championship team in 2000; since then, beginning in 2002, the women’s soccer has won 10 consecutive league titles.

UPS continues to be a huge part of my life. In fact, I basically never left. I am entering my 10th season as an assistant coach with the women’s soccer team, so my soccer family now spans almost 15 years of students. Coaches Randy Hanson and Kelly Bendixen are colleagues now, but still my mentors. I also regularly stay in touch with Robin Hamilton, who has been the heart and soul of athletic operations on campus for, to be politically correct, a long time. I’m also in regular contact with Professor Nancy Bristow, who is one of my all-time favorite people. Her passion for history and the students at Puget Sound inspired me to want to impact the next generation to even one-tenth the degree she has been able to do. Plus, I have my great group of teammates and roommates all over the region, country, and the world who are my best friends.

In my free time I am an avid Sounders, Seahawks, and UW Husky fan. And I hang out with my husband, Travis; our cat, Dante; and our dog, Gunnar. Travis and I love to travel--inside the U.S., but also abroad. We try to leave the country on an adventure every two years. This fall: Greece and Italy!