South LA resident defying the odds

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Monica Valencia is in one of the world’s most male dominated industries thousands of miles from home putting her life on the line and yet she’s content, confident, and entirely convinced that her dreams of higher education and success will come true.

Valencia is a South LA native from a divorced family with not a lot of money. In fact, her family was so poor that when Valencia graduated high school going to college was not an option, so she joined the Air Force.

Valencia spent three years in North Dakota learning how to fight against the rain, snow, and imaginary nuclear attacks. Then she put her skills to the test serving in Germany and South Korea. But no matter where she went, she refused to let her gender cap her potential. She was determined to do her job better than anybody else. She has five leadership awards to prove it.

When Valencia returned home to South LA she embarked on a new journey. She first attended Oxnard Community College for two years and then applied to her dream school – USC. Her dream came true. She’s currently a junior at USC who plans to become a professor of sociology.

Although statistics show that more women of color are earning college diplomas than ever before, Valencia still feels she defied the odds. This spring Valencia became the first veteran in the nation to win the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Award. She plans to use the award to study the sociological implications of Mexican immigration into the United States this summer.