Kim Mendez is a freshman at the University of Montevallo and an elementary education major.

On coming to Montevallo

“I don’t really look hispanic because I’ve got albinism, so I’ve gone through a bit of an identity crisis throughout my life- am I white looking? What am I? But both of my parents come from a small pueblo in Venezuela called Magdaleno. It’s a small woodworking town and I grew up there despite being born in America. From a young age, I was doing things with my hands and creating things. Art’s always been a really big thing for me, so moving to America and speaking English and having English friends…the culture here is different, so I was very culture shocked. I lived in Birmingham prior to coming to Montevallo, and a lot of it was mainly city folk. They weren’t very interactive with each other. Here in Montevallo, it feels a lot more like home- not just in the sense that everyone’s friendly, but it feels a lot more like my hometown in Venezuela. People come to the porch [of Eclipse] and talk to each other and play music and just do their own thing, and they’re very friendly and communicative. The town as a whole has a wonderful community.”

College transitions

“I was raised Catholic in a Hispanic household. I always had very strict rules imposed upon me, especially considering I’m the only female in my family. Being here and getting my own groceries and cooking my own food, which I was already doing but not to the same degree, was very different for me. I had to do a lot of growing up very fast, which I appreciated because as a whole Montevallo has been super supportive. I called my RA one time last semester because I didn’t know how to make pancakes and she helped me make pancakes. Thanks, Jasmine! I feel like [at a big school] it would have been more institutional, more systematic, less personal. I think people need to focus more on personal relationships. That’s something that’s developed well here.”

montevallo culture

“Coming from Birmingham, I was used to people not acknowledging each other, doing their own thing, and keeping their eyes to themselves. Coming to Montevallo, I was pleasantly surprised to meet such friendly people and such different people. It’s a melting pot- we have a lot of different talents that come together. I’ve seen people on this porch [at Eclipse] jamming out on one instrument, someone else joining along in song, other people tapping on the table and making their own piece of art with it… I really feel like that identifies Montevallo as a whole, as a piece of art. Everyone contributing to something and creating something bigger and beautiful and more collective.”

On building community

"I plan on graduating from here and hopefully getting my master’s here as well. I’m currently studying elementary education, and it’s something I’m very passionate about. Working with the youth, bringing them up to be something bigger than what they think they are and what they’re expected to be. Me and some of my friends have talked about doing more colorful things at Orr Park. We want to have more events there. Montevallo [the university] has events where they’ll get together and do things like tie dye shirts and carve pumpkins, but I really want to take that out to the town too. I worked at the child’s study center last semester, and we did a lot of activities with the kids there. It was a lot of fun, but I want to bring that out to the town and let more people express themselves as a whole.”

Montevallo life

“There’s this tree on Main Quad that I climb all the time- I’ve been dubbed squirrel girl for it. I like to go up to places and read until the sun sets and it’s too dark to read anymore. That one tree on the quad that I like to climb up, that’s how I met my partner- he saw a girl in a tree and was really confused, climbed up the tree after me, and now we’re together. That’s one of my favorite things- the fact that it’s so normal to do stuff like climb trees. It’s not looked at as a weird; people just hang out on the quad and put their hammocks up and do anything. I go exploring a lot. There’s a lot of hidden treasures around here, like the field by Orr Park that’s gorgeous, or the dam. You can climb up the side of that and sit next to the water as it’s flowing down. It’s such a great feeling. You get to forget about the world for a minute. [Since coming to Montevallo] I’ve definitely learned to appreciate nature more. Here, I’m surrounded by so much green that it’s almost overwhelming. This town has taught me to appreciate personal intimate encounters more, and people more and trees more, and grass more, and everything that’s alive, including the plants and animals. The squirrels on campus? Even if they’re little terrorists, they’re beautiful.”