By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities
RICHLAND, Wash. – Rafael Mendoza learned from his migrant parents that if you work hard, the opportunities are endless. His success as a Washington State University Tri-Cities business student and intern have proved that true for him.
“Both my parents are from Mexico and all I knew was the farm and labor side of the world,” he said. “I am always working and always doing something.”
At 13, he worked in an orchard. At 15, he saved enough money to buy a semiprofessional camera. A few years later, he started a photography business.
As an undergraduate at WSU Tri-Cities, he landed a co-op internship at Mission Support Alliance (MSA) in the contracting department. He works an average of 32 hours per week while going to school and transitions to full-time during summer and academic breaks.
“There are a lot of responsibilities associated with the internship,” Mendoza said. “I make sure intercontract work orders are processed, that we pay and get paid for work and that contracts are on track.”
What he likes most is that no work day is the same: “It’s challenging. It has a lot of factors. I knew I didn’t want a job that was a constant routine,” he said.
His co-op experience, combined with the theory of business elements he learned through coursework at WSU Tri-Cities, has provided him with a solid foundation for life after graduation.
“It teaches you what to expect as far as professionalism, what’s required, the structure and the layout of the workplace,” he said.
His goal is to continue working with MSA after he graduates before building a business of his own.