"It's going to be a great experience and I'm very excited," says Mendoza.
She was invited by the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference, which brings student leaders from across the country to a five-day trip in the nation's Capitol. Mendoza and the other students will attend the Inauguration and one of the Inaugural Balls.
"My family is very excited. I think they're very proud of me," says the daughter of immigrant parents.
Mendoza excels at Florence Nightingale Middle School in the Los Angeles community of Cypress Park. For this Latina, being able to watch the first African American president take the oath of office holds special meaning.
Mendoza almost turned down the trip to D.C. because she didn't know how she'd pay for the trip. Students and teachers at her school helped her raise the money necessary for the five-day trip. Mendoza admits she's not yet prepared for the cold east coast winter.
"Living in Southern California," she says, "I have only jeans and T-shirts."
Fortunately for Mendoza, her father is a tailor and is making a dress for his daughter to wear to the Inaugural Ball. It's a copy of a 1957 dress Mendoza found on a Web site for vintage clothes.