Giving My Best

I was fourteen years old when I emigrated from Bogotá, Colombia, and started my educational journey in the U.S. On my first day at middle school I was forced to introduce myself to my classmates without knowing any English. I was quiet and still until people broke the silence by laughing and pointing fingers at me. In Colombia, I had failed classes and skipped school, but I used that moment and scar as motivation to learn how to write, read and speak English. By the end of the year, I was the top student in the classroom that humiliated me.

I graduated from middle school with a 3.4 grade point average and received a recruitment letter from the Latino College Preparatory Academy (LCPA), which is a charter high school in San Jose, California that works side by side with its neighbor and partner, the National Hispanic University (NHU). I believed this was the best choice for me because they offer a pipeline program to pursue higher education right after high school. Their plan for increasing Latino college completion motivated me not only to challenge myself but to believe that a university degree was possible.

As we all know, the Latino population is increasing. The Census Bureau reports that one in six people in the U.S. is Hispanic, but a more important statistic is that between the ages of 13 and 26, one in four people—25 percent—is Hispanic. America cannot continue to be a world leader, or have the globally competitive workforce of the future, without educated Latino leaders. I am proud to be one of the many trying to make a difference by earning a college degree and changing the perspective of higher education in our community.

I graduated from the Latino College Preparatory Academy as valedictorian in a ceremony that took place in front of NHU. I was accepted into various universities, including San Jose State and Santa Clara University. Ultimately I decided to enroll at NHU because I felt we had a connection. I knew it was an institution that was going to allow me to grow and that would shape me into a young professional.

Due to my financial situation and migratory status, I wasn’t eligible for financial aid, which made it harder for me to pursue higher education. I had to apply for scholarships and work full-time, but I was determined not to let anything stop me from enjoying my own college experience. NHU provided me with small class sizes and quality education at the level of any private institution. It offered me flexible class schedules that helped me balance my studies with my life. Although the university has Hispanic in its name, it is an institution that welcomes all ethnicities who want a familia-orientated institution with an excellent curriculum. Throughout my journey, NHU has served as my second home. I have met professors who have become mentors, and classmates who have become best friends. I have perfected my English while conserving my bilingual skills, become more educated and open-minded, and gained knowledge I will carry with me at all times to succeed in every aspect of my life. NHU promotes unity and teamwork, but my favorite thing about my experience was the fact that I was not a number—I was Andrés Puentes, El Colombiano.

On May 14, 2011, I graduated from NHU with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and the university’s presidential award. That’s me (above) with NHU president David Lopez and former astronaut José Hernandez. I fulfilled my goal and did my part to help the university realize its vision that all of its students will graduate. In the future, I will be giving my best and giving back to my community and the people who shaped me into who I am today. NHU is creating the leaders of tomorrow, and I am confident in the impact this institution will have in the future.