The “Cool Tio:” LatinX Cultural Association’s DEI Chair Wants to Help Others While Honoring His Background

Student poses with Mexican flag around shoulders

“Mexico holds a very special place in my heart,” says Humberto Mejia, whose family grew up in Mexico. (Photo/Jack Sann)

Written by April 23, 2024

In his role as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion chair, Humberto Perez Mejia wants to be the cool tío, or uncle, to the members of the Latinx Cultural Association.

“When I ran for the DEI position for LCA, I said to the members of the club ‘Nuestra comunidad latina es más fuerte cuando estamos unidos,’ which translates to ‘Our Latin community is stronger when we’re together,” Mejia said.

Mejia wants to be able to help people who were in the same position as him grow and find success because when he was growing up, he did not have a lot of resources.

“Growth, it’s not the easiest thing out there,” he said.

The transfer student is from Dinuba, a small agricultural town in California about 50 minutes south of Fresno, with a population of 25,285 people.

“Whatever I do, I want to make sure that I do it for the good of other people.”
                                                               — Humberto Perez Mejia

“Growing up surrounded by people who have worked tirelessly to bring food to our tables has given me a deep level of respect for those within the agricultural industry,” he said. “Many of my family members, including my dad, have roots in agriculture, whether that’s here or in Mexico, but all with the one single purpose: survival.”

Mejia’s parents are from the small town of Yahualica in Jalisco, Mexico. His mother worked many jobs when she immigrated to the United States and became a stay–at–home mom when Mejia was born.

His dad immigrated to the United States when he was 18 years old and worked many jobs in field work and dish washing. He works as a welder today.

His dad’s job in construction drew Mejia to architecture as he was fascinated by the design of buildings and the process of creating these works of art.

“Mexico holds a very special place in my heart,” he said. “Growing up, I would always visit my parents’ hometown of Yahualica, Jalisco, and I developed a deep love for it. For me, it’s more than just a vacation spot; it’s my second home.”


Humberto Mejia poses near a cacti garden

After graduation, Humberto Mejia said he would like to launch a tequila distillery. (Photo/Jack Sann)

Mejia makes an effort to visit Mexico as often as he can. He holds his culture dearly.

“It is what gives me my purpose in life and what drives my goals and ambitions,” he said.

When he decided he wanted to go to Cal Poly for architecture, he described himself as “distraught” when he found out he was not admitted. While he was admitted to Cal Poly Pomona for architecture, he decided to study in the honors program at his local community college.

“Navigating college as a first-generation college student has been one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced,” Mejia said. “My parents support me in every which way they can, but it can be complicated at times when we know little about this path.”

Through the honors program at Reedley College, Mejia conducted research about how the design of a school can affect someone’s education. He found older, more traditional styles of architecture helped with a student’s education, and educational outcomes were more positive.

At Reedley College, one of Mejia’s business professors asked him to tutor.

He ended up tutoring in managerial, financial accounting, statistics, and finite mathematics.

“My biggest thing is being able to help people,” he said, “and that position as a tutor really helped me test that idea that I liked to help people.”

His studies in architecture were interrupted after one full semester because of the pandemic. Studying architecture, which is a very hands-on and design heavy major, online for a year and a half, Mejia did not feel like he was learning the creative process through a screen.

“I wasn’t enjoying the major as much as I wanted to, and I didn’t want to pursue it as a career,” Mejia said. “Mostly because I didn’t feel like I was learning.”

Humberto Mejia, poses outside the Orfalea College of Business

Humberto Mejia initially pursued architecture but decided to pursue finance at Cal Poly (Photo/Jack Sann)

The shift to online also took a mental and emotional toll on him.

“My passion for a career in architecture began to fade away,” Mejia said.

After applying to the architecture program at Cal Poly and not being admitted again, he took a year off to rediscover himself and applied to the Orfalea College of Business in the fall of 2023. Now he is majoring in business administration with a concentration in finance.

He wants to concentrate on finance because his parents always emphasized being financially responsible. Also, his grandfather was a businessman who used his compassion and skills to help those in his parents’ hometown.

“I’d love to follow in his footsteps and be a force of good in this world,” Mejia said.

His grandfather owned many businesses, such as tortilla shops; livestock and livestock food; purified water; a pharmacy; a shoe store; popsicle shop; and a fabrics store, which is currently being run by his uncle.

“He was born into poverty, but the need to provide for his family drove him to work hard and find success, which he used to help out the people in his town,” Mejia said.

In his marketing class, Mejia got to pick one product to create a marketing strategy throughout the quarter and presented it at the end of the quarter.

“I’m really enjoying the vibe of the classes mostly because Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy really shines through a lot of the classes here on campus.”

While he admits to struggling with imposter syndrome as a transfer student, he said he has found a community in LCA and the Latinx Business Student Association (LBSA).

“Whatever I do, I want to make sure that I do it for the good of other people,” he said. “I feel like I have been doing that here at Cal Poly a lot, at least I hope I have been doing that a lot here at Cal Poly.”

After graduation, Mejia hopes to open a tequila distillery in Mexico.

“Although it’s not something you’d want to hear from a college student, tequila is an aspect of my life that I have a true passion for,” he said. “It’s a unique part of my culture with a rich history. As I learned more and more about the process behind making it, the different taste profiles, and many other things, I began to develop my dream to own a tequila distillery,” Mejia said.

Mejia hopes that this will help him share his culture with the world.

“I want people to understand why I love my culture so much, and that’s I think one of the ways I can do it,” he said.


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