MEDFORD—For 15 years, Remi Mejia used basketball as an avenue to education.
"Basketball was kind of that main thing that always motivated me to do good in school because if I didn't do good in school, I wouldn't be able to play," she said.
"It's been a game changer really for her,” her former high school coach, Tom Cole, said, “It's opened doors for her. It created access to education and really changed her entire family trajectory."
Mejia is a Kids Unlimited success story, Medford’s posterchild for DACA as an immigration policy, and a first-generation college graduate.
"Basketball gave me the opportunity to prove what I was made of, what I was born to be doing in my future," she said.
Now 25 years old, her future is still very much intertwined with the game—basketball as an avenue to education is now basketball as an avenue to a career.
For the 2019 high school basketball season, she will be serving as an assistant coach for the South Medford girls.
"I decided I wanted to be around basketball and I was like, ‘Why not coaching and especially South Medford?’ That's the high school I went to," she said.
"She's a natural leader and she's a great communicator and she's got this unbelievable demeanor about her that's infectious," Cole said.
Mejia was also offered an assistant position at Southern Oregon University, her collegiate alma matter, under her former coach Alex Carlson.
She instead chose to go back South Medford—the thinking being a young coach could have a great impact on a young team.
"All they need is just that one coach who's going to be there pushing them and caring for them and showing them the expectations of how to be a winner," she said.
It’s fitting because it was under her watch that South Medford won its one state championship. Cole recalled many of his current players watching her in 2012.
"Yaremi was a hero to them,” he said. “Because of her flair for the game and the style that she played with, I think these kids grew up idolizing her."
Back then for Mejia, basketball was a means to education.
As South Medford’s newest assistant coach, it’s now a means to education others.
"Probably feels like goosebumps to them, knowing that now I'm an assistant coach. I feel like they're like it's our time and we have Yaremi next to us," she said.