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Karla Santiago Mendez

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Bio

Hi there! My name is Karla and I am currently trying to gather funding to pay for my cosmetology schooling journey! I am hoping to specialize in rockstar haircuts (think Stevie Nicks and Mick Jaggar) and offer gender affirming haircuts to those within my community. I am very passionate about creating a safe and inclusive space in my area of practice. I hold such a deep passion for creating a safe spot for all, especially for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other historically marginalized community members. I get anxious around others/new environments so I plan to offer a "silent appointment" option for clients who struggle with similar issues or for those who just wish to relax! This option will allow me to make beauty services more accommodating to everyone! Another career goal of mine is to break the stigma with beauty services being “girly.” The art of salon services does not only apply to one person but for all! I strive to provide every individual with an opportunity to express themselves through hair because everyone deserves to feel like a baddie, okay! As a proud first generation Mexican-American, I am very determined to break the financial and other barriers that prevent BIPOC students from furthering their education.

Education

Lower Columbia College

Associate's degree program
2024 - 2026
  • Majors:
    • Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Trade School

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Cosmetology and Related Personal Grooming Services
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Hairdresser

    • Dream career goals:

      Esthetician Nail Tech

    • Substitute Custodian

      Vancouver Public Schools
      2024 – Present7 months
    • Barista

      Starbucks
      2021 – 20232 years

    Arts

    • Jewelry
      2020 – 2021
    • Film Criticism
      2021 – Present
    • Calligraphy
      2020 – Present

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Volunteering

    Divine Beauty Scholarship
    A cosmetology education will provide me with the ability to help others express themselves through the art of hair in an inclusive and safe environment. It can be scary and maybe even intimidating to experiment with our hair, especially if we have no knowledge on how it should be preformed. In general, my biggest goal in life is provide a calming atmosphere and create a space where collaboration is celebrated, not ignored. In this industry, we hear from time and time again about the dismal that some stylists give clients. With this environment, it can be hard to advocate for yourself. It can be difficult to find an inclusive stylist who takes the clients vision into consideration and makes their experience a personalized one, constantly checking in to ensure they are being included in their own service. Being able to receive a cosmetology education will allow me to be one step closer to my goal of becoming this person for a future client out there who maybe can’t seem to find their ideal stylist that can help them express themselves in their desired light. When I was 16, I faced a traumatic experience with my drivers license test that messed up my outlook on driving. Since then, I developed a fear of driving but I have slowly been improving this fear. Because of this, one of my short term goals in life is to pass my drivers test before summer. A long term goal of mine is to continue education after school by attending local hair education workshops that are often held in Portland, OR. I also plan to give back to my community by starting a program where local hairstyles can offer their haircutting services to DV (domestic violence) survivors and houseless individuals for free. Growing up, DV shelters were once considered home for me and having been raised in both Oregon and Washington state (both states with some of the highest houseless populations), these communities hold a special place in my heart that I hope to give back to in a positive manner. As a proud first generation Chicana, another one of goals is to also provide a positive figure to my fellow Latino community. I have always described myself as a dreamer. I’ve often told myself that there is so much that I want to accomplish in life it feels overwhelming just thinking about it because of the excitement. I am motivated by my deep passion for hair and I hold a genuine desire to achieve my goals, and give back to my community. By being awarded this prize, it would allow me to pursue my lifelong dreams of attending cosmetology school and it would also provide me with the opportunity to graduate school with no financial burdens. Attached is a photo I took of my first attempt with lightener when I was attending hair school but had to withdraw due to financial reasons.
    Bright Lights Scholarship
    Three has always been my favorite number. I grew up in three primary places, my family of three, everything done in sets of three, and ironically had three different mental health disorders by the age of 18. In total, it took five different professionals to diagnose me with S.A.D before I accepted help. Whenever I bring up having this disorder, it makes me feel silly. I guess I tend to downplay my disorder because it’s just a funny concept. To fear social interactions because of the irrational fear that comes with it sounds a bit ridiculous, right? I mean come on? My first therapy exercise was sitting outside on my front porch for five minutes a day. Any task that involved being social (no matter how small or big) was terrifying to me. My mother had to move us five different times in one year to flee an abusive relationship caused by my biological father. We spent the most impressionable years of my life looking over our shoulders in fear. I was used to fearing the world. Fear was all I knew. When my therapist asked me what my goals from therapy were, I sat in silence for an awkward minute and thought the obvious. Weren’t we here to get better? To get rid of anxiety? She laughed and rephrased her question, "What would you do if your anxiety did not exist?" I sat in silence again for another awkward pause when I realized that I never had a chance to explore my interests. I had no idea who I was or what I liked. I knew that I loved music, creative expression, and baking. I also knew that I loved learning. At this point, I had been out of school for a couple of months due to my anxiety and had felt depressed about it because I genuinely loved learning. I made a goal for myself from then on to fulfil my academic goals. For the next year, I pushed myself to become the person I strived to be. I tackled my first goal of getting my very first job to get more comfortable with social settings. While working, I studied for the GED tests. I received my diploma in a month. I saw my therapist weekly and slowly started to gain a piece of my life back, while becoming a better version of myself. Now knowing how to regulate my anxiety, I was able to start getting to know myself. I found out that I loved concerts and I also really loved being surrounded by expressive people. At concerts, people from different walks of life come together with probably nothing in common but one thing: wanting to live life to the fullest. Seeing the amount of expressive hairstyles and haircuts at these concerts made me fall in love with the art of hair. Ever since that moment, I knew I had to pursue hair. My goal is to provide services with as much care, empathy, and attention to detail as one can offer. I also plan to give back to my community by volunteering my services to DV survivors as well as unhoused people in my community. Aside from my contributions, I will be relying solely on scholarships to fund my schooling. I hope to get my entire schooling covered by financial opportunities to allow me to focus entirely on school and not have to stress about schooling costs. Additionally, this award would allow me to build a life for my family and myself by having a stable income from a career that I feel passionate about.
    Vannessa A. Gonzalez Memorial Scholarship
    “No more Spanish!” A sentence that my mother, a proud Mexican, told my siblings and myself at six years old. During a parent-teacher conference between my then-American stepfather and his daughter, the teacher said “All Mexicans are good for is mowing our lawns.” At that moment, my mother had completely lost all that she had brought from Mexico with her. Mexico was Spanish, but she knew that Americans did not want Mexico in their country. Not long after this event, we became Americans outside of our homes who only knew English. It felt like every day I was saying to the world "Hello, can I be Mexican, or do you want me to be your perfect All-American neighbor? Pick which character to start your game!" With my entire family in Mexico, I had no one to look up to who looked like me. Now that I have grown and times have improved, I embrace my culture, language, and background more than ever. Now that I have a baby niece on the way, I hope to create a positive representation for her. I hope to give representation to my community as well to avoid them going through the same experiences that I did. As a person who has struggled with anxiety and depression from a young age, mental health is so important to me. For some people, it may be their first time visiting the salon after years of their own mental health struggles. Because of this, I hope to create a safe space where they feel comfortable. By understanding how MH can impact someone's life and knowing how to create a space of no judgment, I can incorporate a space for both in my practice. As a child, DV shelters were once considered home for us. Because of this, I gained a passion for giving back to communities, especially to the same communities that helped us during moments of vulnerability. I hope to give back to specifically youth and marginalized communities by offering haircut services free of charge. The things that I have presented today are the very things that have inspired me to become a hairdresser. These things will forever be valued by me even after ten years pass by. I hope to create positive representation through hair, to reflect my love for MH within my practice, and to give back to my community through the art of hair.
    Barber & Stylist Scholarship
    In total, it took five different mental health professionals to diagnose me with social anxiety before I accepted any help. My anxiety was so severe that my first exercise was having me sit outside on my front porch for five minutes a day. The task was so simple yet so terrifying for me. When my therapist asked me what my goals of therapy were, I sat in silence for an awkward minute and thought the obvious…to get better? She laughed and rephrased her question, "What would you do if your anxiety did not exist?" I sat in silence again for another long pause when I realized I never had a chance to explore my interests. Anxiety felt like having a strict parent who would not let you do anything. I loved music yet had never been to a concert before. Coincidentally, one of my favorite artists was touring that year. After my session, I made a risky move by buying non-refundable tickets to a concert that I hoped to attend. It was official, I was going to see Harry Styles live...hopefully. For the next year, I pushed myself to become the person I strived to be. I started by getting my very first job after many rejections. The next step was getting my GED. I accomplished this goal in a month. By committing to my weekly therapy sessions, I slowly started to gain a piece of my life back, while becoming a better version of myself. Come November 7th, the night of the concert. After a brief moment of panic that had me contemplating if I should ditch my concert, I was ready despite everything. To say that that night changed my entire life is an understatement. I would have never discovered that concerts are my happy place if I never tried. At concerts, you see groups of people from different walks of life come together with probably nothing in common but one thing: wanting to live life to the fullest. Seeing the amount of expressive hairstyles and haircuts at these concerts made me fall in love with the art of hair. The same way a haircut makes someone feel is a glimpse of how a concert makes me feel—expressive, alive, timeless. Ever since that moment, I knew I had to pursue hair. My goal is to provide services with as much care, empathy, and attention to detail as one can offer. Following my Harry concert, I started to go to many more such as Inhaler, The Backseat Lovers, Cigarettes After Sex, Arctic Monkeys, etc. Aside from my contributions, I will be relying solely on scholarships and student loans to fund my schooling. I hope to get my entire schooling covered by these financial opportunities to allow me to focus entirely on school and not have to stress about schooling costs. Additionally, this award would allow me to build a life for my family and myself by having a stable income from a career that I feel passionate about.
    Viper Tool Storage Cosmetology Scholarship
    Sometimes I feel like an imposter identifying as a queer woman. One of my biggest mental health struggles was my inability to feel comfortable in my identity. This was a hard time in my life especially since I did not have access to salon professionals that made me feel comfortable or welcomed in their environment to receive services that I enjoyed getting. Every experience I faced with regular stylists has never been the best. Going to the salon was always a dreaded part of my day, and although you would expect salon days to be the most looked forward to day, in my case, I just wanted to go home. Once I started wanting to experiment with my hair and do more fun and creative haircuts, I felt incredibly frustrated because I could not find anyone who specialized in these haircuts. I remember breaking down and just sobbing multiple times during this search because I was so upset. As my search continued, I realized how salons unintentionally catered their business to a certain demographic. In my search, I found no one located in an accessible location (all of the salons were half an hour away in an area where it can get dangerous), no statement outlining their space being a safe one where all are welcome, nor did I see something that indicated how consent and comfortability would be prioritized. This lack of representation does not only apply to hair but also to the areas that I am most interested in within the beauty industry which are esthetics and nails. Being a Queer Chicana woman, I want to create a space for those who feel unseen within the beauty industry and create a spot where they can be themselves. A special place where they can request feminine or masculine haircuts and not feel judged or embarrassed. I want a salon environment where regardless of the services that are being performed, whether it is esthetics, hair, or nails, I am establishing a relationship guided by trust, consent, and respect. My experience with finding no one to help me through my identity journey has inspired me to become that safe spot for my community. I would love to offer gender-affirming services and have a service menu that includes inclusive language, and one that is not priced differently based on gender but instead priced solely by the service to create a more inclusive environment. Although my intention for my salon would be to create a safe space for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other historically marginalized communities, my space will be welcoming to all regardless if they don't identify with these communities. The purpose of me pursuing a career in beauty is to allow a safe and welcoming space where everyone of all backgrounds can come together and get a service done with no judgment. I love caring for others and believe my life purpose is to have a career in this industry. I hold such a passion and have a high regard for providing a service with as much care, empathy, and attention to detail as one can offer.
    Gary Hope Cosmetology And Barbering Scholarship
    The first time I ever decided to go to a hair salon out of want and not out of need, I left with a haircut I didn't want and puffy eyes from crying. It was the very first time I had asked to get bangs, I was about 10 years old, and I was so damn excited for this appointment. I had only ever trimmed my hair until this moment and coming from a Mexican family and culture where hair was and still is seen as something very personal to you, it was a major step for me. The moment I told the hairdresser what I wanted, she looked at me and told me that I wouldn't want bangs. My hair is textured so she told me that it would be too much work for me, my hair would be a puffy mess, and that I wouldn't like it. I have a problem advocating for myself to this day especially when it's personal services, I feel silly going against a professional's advice although it felt like she was deciding for me rather than offering an opinion. This experience among other hair-related ones has made me hesitant to get any hair services at all. Going to the salon felt more anxiety-producing rather than relaxing. As someone who lived and still lives in a predominantly white area, it can feel intimidating to be the only person of color in the entire room. I still feel out of place even in salons that advertise that all are welcome but their demographic is catered to white populations. I decided that I wanted to be a hairstylist who caters to all people and maintains a safe space for everyone, especially BIPOC and the LGBTQ+ community. I plan to specialize in rockstar haircuts (think Stevie Nicks and Mick Jagger) while also being a curly and textured hair enthusiast. My goal as a hairdresser is to master the craft of also knowing how to cut coily and kinky textures, not just wavy curls. Comfort and consent will be a huge emphasis in my career. As mentioned before, I come from a culture where hair is extremely valued and holds a huge sentimental value for many and while I admire this about my culture, it's important to acknowledge that there are also individuals out there who have a similar relationship with their hair. I will make it my mission to be there to ensure that their experience is filled with open communication and collaboration- this goes with every client as well. I would also love to offer/be a part of someone's journey to feeling affirmed within their identity. Unfortunately, both the states of Oregon and Washington have some of the highest populations in the country for people without a home. I hope to be able to offer a system where other hairdressers in the community and myself give free haircuts to those without a home. Similarly, it is a great goal of mine to volunteer at a domestic violence women's shelter and offer free haircut services as my mother is a survivor of domestic violence which makes this goal very close to my heart. Something about myself is that I have a chihuahua and shih tzu mix who we call Handsome.
    Doña Lupita Immigrant Scholarship
    One of the first things that my mother ever told me was, "I will always protect you." From day one, we stuck together like paper and glue. She was and still is my best friend and my whole world. I was born out of an abusive relationship, one of the toughest times of my mother's life was during her pregnancy with me. My mother's night routine for a while consisted of having my older brothers sleep with their shoes on in case she had to flee. I never could hold a hobby even if my life depended on it. There was this time when I thought I'd try a hand at painting, so my mama would buy me watercolors and beautiful brushes. To me, that was support. Then I came to realize that proportions were my Achilles heel, so I gave up. I decided that I wanted to pursue ballet at fourteen years old, so my ma took me to the closest ballet supply store which was 25 miles away and bought me an expensive leotard and ballet slippers. Support once again. When I started to get upset at how my stomach was not flat like the pretty ballerinas in the movies and upset at how my hair was too poofy that day, my ma would frown and tell me that I was beautiful. Beauty. When I was clinically depressed and suicidal my mommy would hold me in her arms while I wept like a small child. Love. As kids, my siblings and I wanted a puppy, but due to the apartments we lived in we couldn't get one. My ma told us that once we got our own house, we could get one. We never thought it'd be possible because she's also allergic to them. As soon as we got our house, we got a puppy, just like she said she would many years ago. Self-giving and commitment. When I had a rough day, she would take a long way home because she just knew. Intuition. When she speaks her native language to us. Pride. When I would ask for a hug, she would drop everything to give me one. Dedication. During the times when she would take me to work with her at the hotel, I would see and understand the type of work that made her hands rough and dry. Hard work was the reason I got blue, sparkly shoes. Hard work was the reason for my enchiladas that she would make me every birthday. When she would tolerate my harsh attitude against the world that would end up affecting her, I learned that loving someone is being patient and compassionate. I live life remembering that it could be someone's worst day, so choose kindness, you never know what someone is going through just like she always said. When my mother got her GED after coming to this country with a middle school education, I realized that dedication and ambition were the foundation for success. When she got to hug her mother in person after 14 years away from each other, I saw what real bravery was. When she graduated with her bachelor's after years of obstacles and isolating moments, I understood that self-discipline carries you to the finish line. When she was granted her citizenship, I learned that courage is the word to describe my mother. Courage is to leave everything; your country, comfort, native tongue, and family to better your situation. With courage comes years of buried emotions. I see that vulnerability is beautiful, natural, and powerful. Veo a mi mamá.