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Latinx Alums Work to Better Their Communities

By Mónica Hernández Williams

The Whitman College community takes pride in celebrating our differences, diversity and multiculturalism across campus. This Hispanic Heritage Month, we are honored to spotlight just a few of the many Whitman graduates with Hispanic heritage who have contributed to stronger, more inclusive communities.

Six inspirational Whitman alums share advice that helped them succeed in business, law, education, public service and beyond.

Rosalinda Mendoza ’06

Rosalinda Mendoza '06Rosalinda Mendoza ’06 always knew she wanted to start a business so she studied economics at Whitman before earning her Masters in Business Administration from the University of Washington in 2015. What she didn’t know was that her future business would tie deeply to her family culture and heritage. 

In 2019, Mendoza left her job at a tech company to co-found Mocel Mezcal, a small-batch artisanal mezcal brand, with her sister. She drew from her heritage and education in bringing mezcal to the U.S. Read more about Mendoza’s story.

Mendoza advises students and young professionals:
“Love what you are doing because people will feel and see your passion and positive energy. That attracts incredible people around you.”

Michelle Morales ’07

Michelle Morales '07Michelle Morales ’07 studied history and politics at Whitman before earning her law degree at Seattle University. Since then she’s worked in both the King County and Walla County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office as well as other law offices.

Morales is the deputy prosecuting attorney for Walla Walla County and has her eyes set on continuing to fight for more positive change. She is currently running for the top job in her office: prosecuting attorney. 

Morales advises students and young professionals:
“Don’t forget what you can do for your hometown when you are creating your life after Whitman. When I graduated Whitman, I thought I would never come back to my hometown, but coming back has been the most rewarding part of my personal and professional life. I have the ability to do great work in the Walla Walla community and really work for the people. I also have the opportunity to make history by giving the voters options and showing that representation matters.”

Laura Sanchez '07

Laura Sanchez '07

Laura Sanchez ’07 graduated from Whitman with a degree in chemistry in 2007. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of California Santa Cruz—where she now teaches as an associate professor.

When reflecting on her time at Whitman, Sanchez sees the value of taking risks and making meaningful connections.

Sanchez advises students and young professionals:
“In science, don't be afraid to fail and it's never too early to start developing your mentorship network.”

Sandy García ’08

Sandy Garcia '08Born and raised in Walla Walla, Sandy García ’08 has committed her professional career to serving the community she grew up in. After graduating from Whitman, García went on to earn her law degree from the University of Idaho in 2011. García is currently an attorney at Legal Counsel for Youth and Children and has served as an attorney in other capacities across the valley—such as human rights and public defending to child welfare and unhoused youth.

García currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Walla Walla YWCA and co-chaired the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for the Northwest Justice Project. She has served on the Civil Service Commission of the City of Walla Walla, the Chief’s Advisory Committee for the Walla Walla Police Department, and the Advisory Board for the Blue Mountain Action Council (BMAC) Pro Bono Law Program.

García advises students and young professionals:
“There are going to be bumps in the road to achieve your goals, no matter how well laid out your plans are. But keep true to your convictions and determination and you'll get there. There were plenty of obstacles I had to face. Knowing I did not stray from my goals, makes all my achievements that much more meaningful.”

Griselda Guevara-Cruz ’11

Griselda Guevara-Cruz '11Griselda Guevara-Cruz ’11 describes her career as investing in others and “serving with humility.” She is currently a supervisor for the Migrant Education Student Event Program at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, where she also serves as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion internal training facilitator. 

In her spare time, Guevara-Cruz sits on the Board of Directors for various organizations including Fuerza Migrante, Texas Exes Puget Sound Chapter and is the Chair of Communities of Color Coalition. She also volunteers as an application reviewer for leadership programs at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute—a top fellowship program in which she also took part in. The yearlong fellowship provides Latinos leadership and public service opportunities.

Guevara-Cruz was first in her family to attend and graduate from college in 2011. While at Whitman, she studied Spanish (now Hispanic Studies) and sociology—graduating with honors in 2011. She was involved in the Black Student Union, Club Latino and KWCW radio station. She volunteered with Story Time (reading to local schoolchildren) and translated for the Walla Walla County juvenile justice system.

Post-graduation, Guevara-Cruz worked for AmeriCorps as a college and career coach for middle and high schools in the Seattle area—focusing on dropout prevention among low-income and minority students. She earned her Master’s in Mexican-American Studies, with an emphasis on education, at the University of Texas.

Guevara-Cruz advises students and young professionals: 
“Be your authentic self, always. Take care of yourself. Go through all experiences with an open heart and an open mind. Be(come) okay with asking for, and accepting, support. No one is self-made … the greatest learning happens in the process. If you’re not happy with an outcome, shift your approach in ways you can—each person has varying proximity to power, privilege and access.”

Ariel G. Ruiz Soto ’11

Ariel G. Ruiz Soto ’11 dedicates his professional life to evaluating and analyzing past, current and future U.S. Immigration Policy. After graduating from Whitman in 2011, Ruiz Soto earned his Master of Art in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

Ruiz Soto was involved in Latino Club at Whitman and worked with undocumented students at the University of Chicago. In his professional career, he has worked for organizations such as the Social IMPACT Research Center, the Center for Changing Lives, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs at the University of Chicago, Federacion de Clubes Michoacanos en Illinois, National Alliance for Latino American and Caribbean Communities, Washington Dream Act Coalition, The State of the State for Washington Latinos (a community-based research project from Whitman College) and El Proyecto Voz Latino.

Ruiz Soto advises students and young professionals: 
“In a world increasingly inundated by ideological differences, addressing the most crucial challenges of our time starts by putting aside our preconceived biases, identifying shared experiences, and, based on the real-life consequences affecting societies' most vulnerable populations, designing solutions that even if imperfect can help unite future generations of problem solvers.”

Published on Oct 12, 2022
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