SAN ANTONIO – Even before she became Miss San Antonio, Rebecca Mendoza was making a significant impact in this community. At age 17, Mendoza founded her nonprofit organization, the Community Connection Warriors, to help break down barriers between special and general education students through an after-school dance program.
Mendoza's love of dance inspired her to create the CC Warriors eight years ago. As a dancer, she believes there's something beautiful to the movements, allowing people to express themselves without words.
For 38 years, Mendoza's mother has taught special education students. Seeing the impact her mom had on these students made her realize how important inclusion truly is. These moments with her mom inspired her to make the CC Warriors not merely a dance program, but a dance program designed to bring together the special and general population.
Growing up, Mendoza could have never imagined the impact she and the CC Warriors have made on this community.
"When I really started this program after the first year, it was really apparent to me and to all the parents and kids that we couldn't just stop this program," Mendoza says. "There was so much good in it, there was so much that hadn't been seen in the United States yet, and so we really fought for inclusion and continue to do that."
The CC Warriors began at Carlos Coon Elementary and is now active in eight elementary schools across the Northside Independent School District. Next year, it will be implemented in 25 elementary schools with plans of expanding to other districts in San Antonio and Colorado in the next two years.
Mendoza owes the success of her organization to the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, who helped her and so many other girls become leaders in their communities. She encourages young girls to stick with the Girl Scouts until their senior year of high school and to continue using their voice to make a difference in the world.
As Miss San Antonio, Mendoza has been able to use her voice to impact this community by making over 350 appearances and visiting over 100 schools.
Out of every appearance, Mendoza feels the highlight of her reign has been getting to understand the city of San Antonio and all that she can do for it. A special moment for Mendoza was teaching choreography to one of her students who is wheelchair-bound, autistic and visually-impaired. Seeing Kimari dance front and center with all the other students was not only remarkable for Mendoza, but for Kimari's family as well.
"It's really not just showing these kids what they can do, it's showing the parents what their children are able to do," Mendoza says.
Although Mendoza wishes her program could be active in every elementary school, the CC Warriors is currently at max capacity. As a nonprofit, the CC Warriors organization relies on volunteers to help run the program. Its focus is not on making money, but on ensuring that every child has the opportunity to express themselves through the performing arts.
Even though her reign is coming to an end, Mendoza is grateful for her time as Miss San Antonio and for all the influential people she had the chance to meet. Mendoza encourages the next winner to "use this title for a good thing. It's not just about being in a sash and a crown, it's about making an impact and using every single day to the best of its ability."
Mendoza is proud to have represented San Antonio on the Miss Texas stage and to have won the Quality of Life Award for her work with the CC Warriors.
The next Miss San Antonio will be crowned Sept. 28th. For more information on the Miss San Antonio scholarship pageant, visit the organization's website.
Additionally, head to the CC Warriors' website for more information on how to volunteer and help make an impact in your community.