a grateful grad

A Grateful Grad, by David Urena ’09, for VITAE Magazine, Summer/Fall 2010

Rejected. The one word that flashed across my mind after being denied acceptance into the University of Florida. I didn’t apply to any other colleges. UF had the best architecture program in the state, and I had placed all my hopes into getting in.

So after graduating from Lyman High School, when most of my friends went off to college, I stayed behind in Altamonte Springs. I transitioned from a part-time to full-time employee at Panera Bread, where I worked throughout high school. In a year’s time, I was promoted to middle management. Although the pay was very little for the workload I had, I stuck with it hoping an upper management position would open up. However, when new management came in, the restaurant underwent downsizing, and I was the first one out. Rejected again.

I was 19, hopeless and confused. I wondered what I would do next in life. Reluctant to give the workforce another try, I mustered just enough money and courage to take courses at Valencia Community College. Although I enrolled part-time, every class engaged my interests and challenged my curiosity. Along the way, I met fascinating classmates, worked a few great jobs, including a land development-drafting job, and was inspired by the best faculty and staff around. I want to especially acknowledge and thank a few people:

 • Richard H. Weinsier, Director of the Math Support Center
While working as a tutor in your Math Support Center, I met several fascinating people and made a new family in all of you.

 • Leesa L. Sward, Professor of Biology and Environmental Science
Your Biology of Human Sexuality course was both enlightening and entertaining.

 • Thomas S. Zurosky, Professor of Chemistry
Attending your Chemistry II course was like being in a laboratory and comedy club at the same time – not every chemistry student can say that!

 • Areej Zufari, Professor of Humanities
You were the only non-literature professor who took an intrinsic interest in my writing. The passion I hold for creative writing is still very strong, mainly due to your encouragement.

 • James L. Chase, Professor of Economics
You are the first Renaissance man I have ever met, and I was fortunate enough to be your student.

 • Merton A. Hollister, Professor of Physics
You are a brilliant thinker who challenged me, through the instrument of Physics, to view the world in different perspectives.

 • Chris D. Borglum, Professor of English
You infused an appreciation for literature I would not have had if it were not for your zealous instruction.

 • Richard L. Russell, Professor of Mathematics
I followed you through seven different mathematics courses, including a sit-in for self-enrichment! I am minoring in mathematics, in large part, due to your impact on my mathematical interests.

 • James D. Lang, Professor of Mathematics
Your calm, collected teachings resonated strongly in my mathematical reasoning and, for that, I have a firm understanding of multivariable calculus today.

 • Patsy G. Buckley, Professor of Student Success
You played an important role in my transition from a good high school student to a great college student through the very first course I took at Valencia: Student Success.

Eventually, I found enough courage and hope to reapply to the University of Florida. This time, I was accepted into a program I was more passionate about: civil engineering.

I hope my story can be one of many that will help and inspire anyone who got rejected and felt like giving up.

Again, my warmest thanks go to those mentioned above for making Valencia a better place to start.

Photo courtesy of David Urena

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