>While in middle school, Amanda Mendiola, BA '11, watched from the stands as her sister, Daphne Trueblood, BA '01, marched in the Baylor University Golden Wave Band.
"Daphne played clarinet, and I just thought that was the coolest thing," says Amanda. "My mom and I had season tickets and we came up to watch her at every Baylor home game."
Mendiola was accepted to multiple universities, but chose to be a Bear because of Baylor's combination of its Christian environment, the Honors College and the opportunity to join "BUGWB" herself.
"This year I was trumpet squad leader and I loved it," says Mendiola. "Marching band is a family, especially so here at Baylor. The second you get here as a freshman, BUGWB does such a good job of taking you under their wing. The transition was made incredibly easy. And immediately having 275 friends was great. The trumpet section, about 40 of us, is particularly close. Growing as a player and a leader over four years and doing a different show every weekend is a lot of work, but so much fun."
Mendiola comes from a family of sports nuts, so being in the Big 12 and playing at basketball games in the Courtside Players has been "ridiculously important" to her. She especially relished accompanying the men's squad to the Elite Eight during her junior year. While Mendiola says she's not sure how she will move on from BUGWB after graduation, she looks forward to building upon two of her other college passions. Majoring in philosophy and serving at Mission Waco have aided her in finding her vocation -- something she attributes directly to her Baylor experience.
"There is kind of a growing trend in the country toward focusing more on the science behind philosophy and metaphysics and really getting away from ethical theory and moral philosophy. Places like Baylor and Notre Dame still really ground their philosophy departments in understanding a moral education. I just latched onto that. It's molded the way I've learned to think about life, to be open and honest with my opinions."
When Mendiola was recently inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest scholastic honor society, she credited Dr. Todd Buras, MA '94, as one of several who made giant imprints on her Baylor experience.
"Dr. Buras taught my modern European philosophers class, which I struggled with," she says. "He made the ideas accessible, he made me want to come to class, and he always made me feel like I had solved something, accomplished something every day. It's a tight-knit department, and if I had a problem, [department chair] Dr. [Michael] Beaty fixed it in five minutes. I want to be the poster child for our philosophy department; I love them so much.
"One thing I've valued most is that the philosophy faculty encourages constant critical analysis of your faith and asking questions, which is huge to me as a Christian," says Mendiola. "To be able to consider philosophical questions and ask how to understand them as a modern-day Christian -- just knowing these are okay questions to ask, and then realizing the professors have thought about this because they are modern-day Christians -- it's been amazing."
As one of 10 Carr P. Collins Scholars in her class, Mendiola was required to complete 60 hours of community service (five hours per week) during each of her four years. This propelled her to volunteer at Mission Waco's afterschool children's program, the ROCK (Renewing Our Children's Knowledge). She says volunteers would easily log 90 or 100 hours per year there without really trying.
During her sophomore year, Mendiola met twin boys, second graders, whose mother was incarcerated. Amanda and another volunteer spent many weekday hours with them, but also took the brothers out to Cameron Park Zoo or other kid-friendly places nearly every weekend.
"It completely changed my life," says Mendiola. "They are smart and funny, maybe a little bit of troublemakers because they are so brilliant."
Through working with kids in high-risk family situations, Mendiola was inspired to use her critical thinking skills for what she views as a higher calling.
"In one of those sort of direct, God moments, I knew I was going to go law school," says, Mendiola, who this fall will attend University of Texas Law School, focusing on children's advocacy. "I would love to work with public policy that affects children, especially from the environment that I've seen working with Mission Waco, in addition to adoption law, specifically through the foster care system."
Mendiola says scholarships such as the Carr P. Collins and Baylor Women's Council of Austin made it financially possible for her to come to Baylor.
"The Collins program changed my life," says Mendiola. "Without that, I wouldn't have been able to afford to attend Baylor, I wouldn't have found the boys I mentor, and I might not be on the path toward children's advocacy, which was probably the main reason I was supposed to come to Baylor."