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Counting His Blessings

Jonathan Medina

When you see other people prosper, it makes you understand the work that you’re doing is meaningful.

When Jonathan Medina (’14, accounting) walks into the Charles Pankow Builders office on a Monday, he is happy to be there. His work is dynamic: as a project accountant, he handles accounts for large-scale commercial construction projects, works with multiple teams and answers their financial questions.

“I know a lot of people say, ‘It’s Monday … [with discontent].’ I don’t think I’ve ever caught myself saying that,” he says.

Shortly after Medina graduated, he joined the Pasadena-based firm. He is now based in Pankow’s San Francisco office and has plans to be a certified public accountant.

The start of that career path, however, was rocky. As a toddler, Medina lived with his mother and three brothers, and moved from home to home across the San Gabriel Valley. When Medina was 7, his grandparents were awarded custody of him and his siblings. Medina attended school in Alhambra, and entered a private high school to get a better education. However, he transferred out his freshman year when his grandparents lost their El Monte home in the recession. They moved twice more after that.

Despite the adversity of his home life, Medina brimmed with ambition. In high school, he took calculus and was captain of the football and track and field teams. When he applied to college, he thought about going into the business sector.

“One of my cousins did accounting, and I was trying to figure out a good career path to pursue,” he says. “I was getting a feel for different things, and I thought accounting had a bunch of different career paths that I could venture off into.”

Going to Cal Poly Pomona dawned on him during his junior year. The atmosphere and academic environment sold him on the university. “From there, I just went full steam ahead,” he says.

Medina arrived on campus with an undeclared major in 2009 and quickly became a student assistant in the former Office of Judicial Affairs. Even in college and while still living with his grandparents, Medina was in contact with his parents. During Medina’s first year, his dad showed him a Los Angeles Times article about Cal Poly Pomona’s Renaissance Scholars. The program helps former foster youth navigate higher education by providing services and support.

Medina joined Renaissance Scholars in his second year and is one of 54 students in the program’s history to have graduated.

Medina immersed himself in the program’s workshops and team-building events. He was also a peer mentor for the program, which helped him develop leadership skills and build camaraderie.

“Renaissance Scholars helped me develop and grow as a person,” he says. “There are plenty of events along the way that help build community. That’s a big thing with Renaissance Scholars. They talk about it as a family.”

Soon after, Medina blossomed. He took his first accounting class and declared his major, which spurred him to join several student organizations.

“It was just the desire to grow and get out of my comfort zone,” he says. “I was joining different clubs, going to different events — something I probably thought I wouldn’t have been doing back in high school.”

This motivation brought Medina to Pankow. At a Cal Poly Society of Accountants job fair, Medina met Pankow representatives and secured an internship that led to a full-time position. The experience as a student leader serves him well in the professional world.

“In being in a leadership position, you’re trying to build others,” he says. “When you see other people prosper, it makes you understand the work that you’re doing is meaningful.”

And while he’s grown immensely in the last five years, Medina is just getting started — one happy Monday at a time.

“I feel like the possibilities are endless,” he says.

Published on February 25, 2016

Impact Map

Explore Impact Map

The Impact Map shows how Cal Poly Pomona alumni are making a difference in Southern California and around the country. Explore the map or share your own impact.

Explore the map

Submit Your Story