Alumna turned staff: Mendonca returns to WA


Kristen Su

Alumna Danielle Mendonca ’17 returns to WA this year as the new Athletic Administrative Assistant.

Kristen Su, Co-Managing Editor

While high school alumni speak fondly on their experiences, seldom do they plan to return as staff, much less to their own school.

After graduating from WA in 2017 and earning a degree in Psychology from UMass Lowell, Danielle Mendonca has made her way back to WA as the new Athletic Administrative Assistant.

Despite coming from a psychology background, Mendonca’s interest in secondary education and math is what brought her to a high school staff position.

“I knew that I always wanted to work with high school students. […] I love kids, but I love having that social interaction with high school[ers],” Mendonca said.

She always knew that she wanted to return to her alma mater in some capacity. In the past year, she started subbing at WA and coaching the J.V. Softball team.

“My ultimate goal was to come back here [to WA] eventually, whether it be teaching or [coaching],” Mendonca said.

However, after being hired, rather than returning for a master’s in education to pursue a teaching career, she decided that she would see where the position of administrative assistant leads her first.

“I’m kind of switch[ing] gears [towards administrative work] and I’m definitely taking it just step-by-step. If something else pops up here where I can advance, I’ll keep that option open for sure,” Mendonca said.

Mendonca’s duties revolve around helping student-athletes and coaches manage their seasons. From scheduling buses to organizing the appropriate amount of referees, she does all the work to make sure that a game goes smoothly for everyone involved.

Despite the variability of the pandemic and a beginning in a field of work completely disparate from her previous part-time jobs, Mendonca has been able to find a steady routine amidst the chaos.

“It’s kind of good for me because what I do in the fall is the same exact thing as what I’ll be doing in the wintertime, but it’ll just be with different sports. So I’m thinking that the job will be somewhat repetitive, but it’s going to be different with the students in the sports. […] Once I get a handle on it, I’m hoping that things will go a little smoother,” Mendonca said.

Athletic Director Jeff Bunyon, who informed Mendonca of the job offer, attests that she’s made a speedy transition.

“I would say in the first month-plus of the job, Danielle has done an exceptional job. She has followed up on all of our scheduling, our buses, [and] our officials. […] We have a new accounts payable system that she had to learn. There’s a lot of processes in place that she’s had to learn and she’s grabbed on,” Bunyon said.

An avid member of the Student Council while in high school, returning to WA also means that Mendonca will return to some of her roots, particularly with the Holiday Bazaar.

“I ran it [the Holiday Bazaar] [as] a student, and now I’m going to be running it as the adult in charge. I’m looking forward to that,” Mendonca said.

Mendonca also prizes the fact that she’s able to return to having relationships with her favorite teachers, but now from a different perspective.

“A lot of people that I looked up to as a student I’m now working with. […] We had a teacher-student relationship where we could still talk, and now it’s [that] we’re both adults. You really get that different level of relationship,” Mendonca said.

She has remained in contact with the business teacher and Varsity Softball Coach Gina Mustoe, whom she looked up to for guidance after being on the J.V. softball team during her high school years.

“When she was younger, she knew she could come to me to talk about things that needed to be talked about […] not be judged, and that’s another way that we kind of established a pretty strong bond. It’s not weird that now she’s an adult and we’re working together [as softball coaches], it’s actually a perfect fit because we understand each other and we have a lot of the same values,” Mustoe said.

Despite operating behind the scenes, Mendonca hopes to cultivate relationships with student-athletes in the spotlight.

“I can’t wait to get on the field with the players and have them recognize my face. […] I’m hoping by the springtime, I’ll have things down, I’ll know what I need to do, and I can still get out there and be with the students,” Mendonca said.