Thrive Scholars: Where Are They Now? Lesly Mejia
Thrive Scholars is a national nonprofit providing high-achieving, low-income students of color with the opportunities they need to thrive at top colleges and in meaningful careers. Boston Private has supported Thrive Scholars, previously SCS Noonan Scholars, for a number of years. Aside from financial sponsorship, Boston Private employees have volunteered to mentor Thrive scholars, offering guidance and support to students as they navigate their college experience and early career milestones.
Over the years, scholars mentored by Boston Private employees have gone on to great achievements. We thought it would be fun to check in with our mentees, learn about their journeys and find out what they’re doing today.
We caught up with Lesly Mejia, who was mentored by Marilyn Tressel, Boston Private Senior Credit Officer. They started working together in 2016 before Lesly started at Williams College in Williamstown, MA. Lesly graduated with a degree in chemistry in May 2020 and has just started as an Analytical Chemist at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer at its Groton, CT facility this September – a role she was introduced to through Marilyn.
“Lesly came to Williams with a bright future ahead of her, majoring in chemistry and Asian studies, but graduated in the midst of the pandemic which was a challenge for her and her cohort in terms of finding job opportunities,” said Marilyn. “I was delighted that I was able to connect her to Pfizer through my daughter, Alex, a former Pfizer manager. When Lesly was a sophomore, I took her to visit Alex at Pfizer’s Groton facility to see how she might use her chemistry degree upon graduation. When Alex became aware of an opening at Pfizer, she thought of Lesley and the rest is history! I’m confident she will succeed in her role at Pfizer and I look forward to seeing all that she accomplishes.”
Tell us a little about yourself – your background and what makes you unique.
My family emigrated from Guatemala for a better life. I am the youngest of three and the only one to be born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. When I was in kindergarten, my dad gave me two options: doctor or lawyer. I chose doctor because I didn’t like to write – I still don’t. From then on, I was encouraged to do well in school and become a doctor. As much as I wanted to make my parents proud, I just fell in love with school. I used to sneak books and a flashlight under my pillow before bedtime. My mom found out so I switched to keeping my books under the mattress. I took two chemistry classes with an amazing teacher and decided that was what I wanted to do, never mind the doctor bit. Chemistry was much more exciting. I graduated top of my class in high school and went off to Williams as the first in my family to attend college and graduate.
How has being part of the Thrive Scholars/SCS Noonan program influenced your life?
SCS Noonan has had a large influence in my life. They told me to apply to Williams
College, even when I felt I wouldn’t get in. They taught me to lead people through their regional director roles within the college. The SCS scholars at school encouraged me to continue my classes when I wanted to quit. I was able to graduate from college as a double major with a wonderful mentor who helped me find my job at Pfizer. I graduated with no loans and more than eight thousand dollars in my pocket from scholarship money alone, all while partially paying for my tuition. And above everything else, I’ve graduated knowing I am not alone and I will always have a network I can reach out to if I ever need it.
What’s the best advice your mentor provided you?
“Just apply to it, the worst they can say is no.” Marilyn has given me so much advice, but this advice stands out the most to me. There are statistics showing men are more likely to apply to jobs outside their qualifications, or believe they are more qualified than they actually are. Marilyn reminds me not to fall into that statistic, but rather work towards becoming a confident woman who goes for what she wants.
What are your dreams for the future and what’s in store for you for the next three to five years?
This is tricky because my life goal was to go to college. Then I found my chemistry class and I really just wanted to pursue that. For now, I want to learn more about industrial work and research outside of college campuses. I want to challenge the workforce ideals many of my classmates held, where a chemistry degree was associated with a pre-med track. Then I will go back to school to get a masters and a doctorate with a better idea of what I want to do with that education.
My favorite part of the day is...
My favorite part of the day is when I can sit down to have a cup of tea because I believe it is important to have a small portion of the day to enjoy for yourself. Plus, I really like tea.