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Lupita Neyra

Lupita Neyra Lupita Neyra, 20, plans to graduate with a degree in communication studies and minors in English and Spanish and a teacher certification in Fall 2017. She has been involved with the University Program Board for the past two years, serving as the N2-Tunes Committee chair this past academic year. As a member of Sonar Despierto, Neyra has volunteered at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance every other weekend providing activities for the children. She’s also participated in that organization’s events for children in low-income families – Dia de Nino and Macroposada. As an employee of the Student Union’s Information Desk for the past year, she has enjoyed the opportunity to work with many students, parents and faculty members.

What are your plans after graduation? I would like to work in Student Affairs at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley since I enjoy helping students make the best of their college experience. I am also considering moving to San Antonio or Florida to work as a bilingual elementary school teacher or in public relations. I also plan to attend graduate school to earn a master’s degree in marketing.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? Leaving the Valley to continue my education would give me the opportunity to experience other regions and cultures and acquire knowledge that will help me throughout my career. Once I have gained experience in my field, I would like to return to the Valley and give back to my community.

What has your education done for you? Education is the key to success; it has provided me with the tools to succeed in life. Every day we have the opportunity to learn something new and make a difference in the world. I have learned to see things in different perspectives and understand other people’s point of views. I feel that we never stop learning and there is always room for more knowledge in our lives.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? UTPA has been my second home. I have to admit I was afraid to leave home and come to a new place but I easily adapted. The staff is very welcoming to incoming students and make you feel like you belong. Getting involved allowed me to serve UTPA as a student leader and help students have an excellent university experience. UTPA provides many opportunities for students as well as great professors and staff who give students the tools to be successful in the real world and make a difference.

What is your best tip for success? Where there is a will there is a way. You will face some hard times along the way, but don’t give up, it will all pay off and be worth it in the end. Set your goals and set your mind to accomplish them.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Becoming a college student is certainly a big transition. Being a third-year student I can honestly say the best advice I can give is to get involved. Our campus has many organizations that students can join where you can meet different people and build connections allowing you to learn from one another. Campus involvement opens many doors that allows students to gain new skills that can be used throughout their time in college and in their future careers.






Yoselin Garza

Yoselin GarzaYoselin Garza, 23, plans to graduate in Fall 2015 with a degree in business management and a minor in Spanish. She graduated from the Student Leadership Academy in Spring 2015. She is a member and served as an officer for the Society for Human Resources Management. Additionally, Garza is part of the University Program Board and has completed an internship in the Office for Student Involvement (OSI) at UTPA. In Spring 2015, she was nominated as the OSI Rookie Employee of the Year. In Spring 2014, Garza participated in the LeaderShape Institute and subsequently served as its onsite coordinator this past spring. Her volunteer activities include participation in Adopt an Angel, the Martin Luther King Day of Service and Bronc Awakening retreats.

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation in December, I plan to look for a job where I can put into practice what I’ve learned and love using my leadership and business management skills. In fall 2016, I want to pursue a master’s degree in business administration. I also plan to travel to Europe and gain experience about their culture and international business since it has always been a dream of mine to travel. I would like to do some community work and contribute some of my skills. It is a journey that I am excited to begin. For my future, I would like to become a business owner and a founder of programs to help single mothers in the Valley.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? I plan to stay in the Valley; as a Mexican native, I love it here. It has defined so much of who I am today. The Valley will always be in my heart. After going abroad and gaining experience, I plan to return to the Valley to share new ideas and contribute to the community.

What has your education done for you? I consider myself extremely blessed for having the opportunity of gaining an education. Every semester has been a growing experience. I’ve had highs and lows though; it has not been easy but it has helped shape me into the person I am today. My education has been a path of self-discovery and helped me not to be afraid of failure.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My UTPA experience has been great. It has provided me with a quality education, moral support and many opportunities for involvement on campus and in the community – events like HESTEC and career fairs. The university has provided me with experiences of being exposed to career fields and opportunities to see what other people have done to be successful as well as what actions they take to improve to reach their goals.

What is your best tip for success? My tips to succeed in college are to set goals and to visualize and set timeframes to complete them. You should live in the present; what you experience today will help lead you to who you become tomorrow, so be happy. Do not let fear overwhelm you and keep you in your safe zone. College is a challenge, so even though there may be speed bumps in your life, never give up.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? My advice for college-bound students is to focus on your goals. Do not underestimate the challenges of any class and try your best. Also, in my opinion, it is easier to increase and maintain a good GPA in the early stages of your college career, so stay focused from day one.

Miguel A. Rivera

Miguel A. RiveraMiguel A. Rivera Jr., 31, is a graduate student with plans to earn a master’s degree in public administration in May 2017. Rivera earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a focus in finance in 2011 from The University of Texas-Pan American. He started working with UTPA as a part-time employee while attending classes and became a full-time staff employee nine months later. Rivera has 10 years of experience working in information technology and has received specialized training in his respective field. He and his wife have three children – ages 2, 3 and 6.

Awards/Honors: Team Excellence Award, 2008; Top 6 Peer Choice Award, 2013; and UTRGV Assistance Scholarship, 2015-2016.

What are your plans after graduation? Following graduation in May 2017, I plan to manage a department in information technology and pursue my education dream of getting a Ph.D.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? I plan on staying in the Valley because it is one of the fastest growing regions in the state with lots of opportunities for career growth. I also love spending time with family and the Valley is a great place to raise one.

What has your education done for you? My education has given me the qualifications needed to apply for jobs in a very competitive job market. Attending UTPA, which is a multicultural university, has given me a better understanding of different cultures and I have made great friendships along the way. Learning to be culturally competent has provided me with many benefits in both my personal and professional life.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My experience at UTPA has been both gratifying and challenging. Professors at UTPA pushed me out of my comfort zone by challenging and mentoring me.

What is your best tip for success? Figure out what you’re good at, determine what your passion is, and set a career plan that embraces both.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Manage your time wisely and don’t give up when the road gets tough. It is a journey that will be rewarding for your family, the world, and most importantly for yourself.

Chad Grissom

Chad GrissomChad Grissom, 20, plans on graduating with a bachelor’s degree in both philosophy and psychology in 2017. He has been inducted into three honor societies: Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society for First-Year Students, Golden Key International Honour Society, and The National Society of Collegiate Scholars. He is also a member of the University Program Board, Students United for Animals, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Club and a brother of Beta Xi Chi Multicultural Fraternity Inc. An aspiring leader, he graduated from the LeaderShape Institute in May 2015. Grissom’s volunteer activities include: cleaning up an adopted highway with his Greek brothers and sisters during the MLK Day of Service; helping prepare the Cesar Chavez march and community event in San Juan; and assisting at a mini-carnival for the nonprofit Hope In Joy organization. He has also volunteered with the Alpha Sigma Tau’s fundraising event, “Mr. AST”; and helped construct a home with Habitat for Humanity

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2013-Spring 2014 and Spring 2015; Texas Grant, Spring 2013-present; and Cipriano & Consuelo Muñoz Scholarship recipient, 2014-15.

What are your plans after graduation? There are so many things that I would love to do that my plans are still up in the air. I would like to achieve a master’s in either neuropsychology or clinical psychology. I would also like to pursue a doctorate in philosophy. From there, I would like to open up my own practice with more of a focus on counseling juveniles.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? To be perfectly honest, I have no idea. I would deeply miss my family and a lot of great friends I have down here, but if I need to move to pursue my dreams then I will do what I must.

What has your education done for you? My education has really helped me expand and enrich my perspective on various subjects and issues. It has also opened many doors for me and taught me a lot about myself and others.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? It has been great; I can gladly say that despite any hardship I have had to face, I have only become stronger and have had an amazing experience hands down!

What is your best tip for success? Prioritize your goals and let nothing stand in your way, not even yourself.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? I would first advise taking initiative and getting involved. You are now fully responsible for where you end up in life so do not be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone. You will never achieve what you are truly capable of if you never try. Manage your time well and ask as many questions as possible. Always reflect on what you have done, what has worked for you, and what has not worked for you. Stay positive, and do everything in your power to keep that drive strong and flexible. Don’t be afraid to approach people; networking in the real world is a great way to make great friendships and a way to receive help while at the same time being able to give back. Also, don’t wait until the last minute to work toward a goal. Learn to say “no” so you can prioritize and manage your time well. A Chinese proverb that I like to think about is “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

Bianca Zapata

Bianca ZapataBianca Renee Zapata, 21, plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in criminal justice in December 2016. She is a graduate of Harlingen High School. On campus, she joined the University Program Board (UPB), an organization that creates educational and entertaining events around campus, and has served as chair of UPB’s Heritage Committee. Zapata will continue being a member of the UPB for UTRGV and plans to join other organizations as well. Some of her volunteer work has been with Winterfest, planning Bronc Olympics and Party for the Planet at Gladys Porter Zoo. In May 2015, she attended the LeaderShape Institute, which teaches students to lead with integrity and have a healthy disregard for the impossible.

Awards/Honors: Texas Grant recipient, Fall 2012-present; UPB Programming Assistant of the Month, November 2014; Making the Difference Award, May 2015; and LeaderShape Academy graduate, May 2015.

What are your plans after graduation? Following my graduation, I plan to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio for the master’s program and continue with my sociology degree. I hope to one day work for the government at the state/federal level or work with administration.

Do you plan to return to the Valley? I plan on leaving the Valley for school but who knows what the future will hold. There is so much to explore outside of the Valley. The Valley will always have a special place in my heart but I do wish to travel. I do plan on coming back to visit family and friends.

What has your education done for you? My education has done so much for me. I’ve learned not to take education for granted since not everyone is able to receive the same education as I have. Being the oldest of three kids, I’ve shown my younger brothers what hard work and dedication can do for you. Having my family’s support and seeing how proud they are is a great feeling. Education has opened so many doors for me and the possibilities are endless.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My UTPA experience has been amazing. The wonderful staff, dedicated professors and my friends have made it extraordinary. The memories I have made here will forever stay with me. I thank each and every person I have come across who has helped me become the woman I am today. However, my experience isn’t over. I still have things to learn and grow as a person. Even though I won’t be graduating as a Bronc, I am still very excited to be graduating as a Vaquero and I am grateful for everything that this university has done for me.

What is your best tip for success? Set goals for yourself. Don’t try to be someone else, just be yourself and work hard. Manage your time wisely and always stay positive even when times get tough. Be dedicated, passionate and patient. Don’t be afraid of failure and learn from your mistakes.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? College is no walk in the park. You have to work hard all four years. Start off strong and don’t slack off. Become involved and join organizations, talk to professors, make new friends and challenge yourself. Ask your professors questions and don’t let the fear of failing get to you. Professors don’t want you to fail, they want to see you succeed. Find out who you are and don’t take anything for granted. Have pride for your university and enjoy your college experience.

Adrienne Brent Estabillo, 21, plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and minors in biochemistry, English and film studies in Spring 2016. He is a graduate of South Texas High School for Health Professions. As a member of the Facilitated Admissions for South Texas Scholars program, he has earned early conditional acceptance to The University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio. He has been inducted into the Alpha Lambda Delta Freshman Honor Society and worked for the past three years as the society’s historian and junior adviser. Estabillo has also been involved and volunteered through the Premedical Biomedical Society, Health Care Coalition, and Global Medical Brigades chapters at UTPA. He has also worked as a college mentor for the nonprofit Texas Valley Communities Foundation promoting college readiness across the Rio Grande Valley. Estabillo currently works as a lab teaching assistant in the biology department for the course Genetics.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2012-Spring 2015; University Scholars Presidential Scholarship, Fall 2012-Spring 2015; South Texas High School for Health Professions Scholarship, Fall 2012; and Security First Credit Union Scholarship, Spring 2015.

What are your plans after graduation? Following graduation, I hope to attend The University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio. I plan to earn my medical degree with the hope of attaining a residency in the field of anesthesiology.

Do you plan to return to/stay in the Valley? Following completion of my medical training I would love to return and practice in the Rio Grande Valley. Raised in the Valley my entire life, it would be an amazing opportunity to return and give back to my community as not only a practicing physician, but also as a professor for the UTRGV School of Medicine.

What has your education done for you? My education in the Valley has taught me to think critically about the world around me. Through my studies at UTPA I have learned to be confident and diligent in all that I do. Additionally, my education has taught me to creatively think outside of the box when it comes to solving problems.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My experience at UTPA has been extremely rewarding. I have the opportunity to not only study under a diverse faculty, but to also work with a diverse group of students. With such large diversity, we are able to learn something new every single day. Thanks to UTPA, I had the opportunity to work closely with my professors and fellow students to gain a strong grasp on class material. It is because of these close relationships that I was able to work as a biology lab teaching assistant.

What is your best tip for success? My best tip for success is to remain open minded to the world and its opportunities around you. Don’t be afraid to jump into the deep end to try something new. As long as you work hard and remain motivated, your ability to reach any goal you set your mind to can never be diminished.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? My advice to college-bound students is to work hard toward your dreams. Your level of success will always be determined by how hard and how far you are willing to push yourself toward that goal. While in college, try to get involved across campus and in your community so that you can really get to know who you are as a person. Finally, don’t ever be afraid to shoot for the best.

Edgar Padilla

Edgar Padilla

Edgar Padilla, 21, is a senior and plans to graduate in Spring 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a minor in business administration. He is a member of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and this year participated in the LeaderShape 2015 Institute, a six-day conference where students acquire leadership skills that enable them to impact the community and accomplish their vision. In addition, he attended UTPA’s Inaugural Women Leadership Conference which empowers women in society with the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the issues that affect them. Padilla works as an office aide for UTPA’s Office for Student Involvement (OSI), where he provides information about a variety of opportunities to be active in school like community service, fraternity and sorority life, leadership and mentorship programs, and more than 250 student organizations. Padilla volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House, located in Harlingen, where he helped accommodate patients, who were children, and their parents in the facility by cleaning, cooking, and reading books.


Awards/honors: Dean’s List, Spring 2013 and Fall 2014; and LeaderShape graduate, 2015.

What are your plans after graduation? My plan is to continue my education by getting a master’s in engineering. After completing my master’s, my primary goal is to work for a prestigious company, such as Microsoft or Apple as an engineer. Also, I plan to open a food business, preferably a Mexican restaurant.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? First, I would like to leave to further pursue my career, especially with all the great opportunities out there. Studying outside the Valley would be a wonderful experience, plus traveling is a beautiful thing to do. As an engineer, seeing different perspectives, cultures and traditions can definitely help me in my career. However, returning is a possibility because I would love to give back to the community that helped me shape my future.

What has your education done for you? My education opened my eyes and helped me understand the importance of obtaining knowledge and a degree to support it. It introduced me to wonderful and amazing friends, made me self-aware, and taught me to grasp opportunities when it comes to pursuing a career.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My college years have been remarkable with so many events going on around campus, which has allowed me to meet wonderful people. Faculty and staff are always there to help with anything I need. Working at OSI has allowed me to grow as a person; I am more respectful, responsible, self-aware, and outspoken. My communication skills were poor before attending UTPA, but with the help of OSI’s work-study program I have developed that skill.

What is the best tip for success? To accomplish something, you have to take the first step; if you want something to happen, make it happen. Do not wait until someone shows you the way. You are in charge of your own destiny. My favorite quote by David Bly says, “Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.”

What advice do you have for college-bound students? The college experience can be a good one, but only if you work for it. I highly recommend joining organizations that have to do with your major; not only will it look good on your résumé, but you will also meet people who can help out with your assignments and in class. Also, asking questions is essential in college.

Alfredo Hinojosa

Alfredo Hinojosa Alfredo Hinojosa, 38, is a senior and plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in information systems in December 2016. He will be joining the Association of Information Technology Professionals Club in Fall 2015. Hinojosa works full-time with UTPA IT Support as a computer user support specialist. Working and attending school full time as well as being a dad of two children has proven to be a challenge, but one that Hinojosa has willingly accepted. Growing up as migrant farmworker, Hinojosa understands that education is the key to opening doors to a better future. In the community, he volunteers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in LaVilla.

Awards/Honors: Angel Investor Staff Scholarship, Fall 2014-Spring 2015; and UTRGV Assistance Scholarship, 2015-2016.

What are your plans after graduation? Following my graduation, I plan on attending graduate school at UTRGV to pursue my master’s degree in communication. I look forward to obtaining a position in IT administration as a director or administrator in some capacity whether it is a private business, local government or higher education entity.

Do you plan to return to/stay in the Valley? I plan on staying in the Valley while I continue my education and to take advantage of the opportunities provided to me by my current employer. Once I attain my master’s degree, I would like to move to either San Antonio, Austin or Dallas, then eventually return to the Valley after a long fulfilling career and retire.

What has your education done for you? My education has allowed me to help break the cycle of living as a migrant farmworker. I take pride that my parents worked hard all of their lives to provide for their family. I believe that I can show my gratitude to them by liberating myself through education. I wholeheartedly admire them for working so hard and in changing the course of my life. In this, I find honor and I will always be indebted to them. With encouragement to pursue a higher education from them, I have been able to give my children a better quality of life, thus far, and help set a good example for their future as well.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My experience at UTPA began as an employee at the IT Help Desk. Being around the university environment motivated me more and more every day to further my education. One of the main drives for my return to college can be attributed to the students attending UTPA. To walk around campus and see their eagerness to learn and prosper is a great motivation. I found that I could not simply work here without taking advantage of what UTPA had to offer. Once I started classes, I felt a new sense of purpose and a new goal to be reached. Experiences of struggle, success, hard work, stress and happiness have made me truly appreciate what UTPA has to offer.

What is your best tip for success? During a lifetime a person will go through many points when they will be tested. Be resilient and persistent in your belief that you are successful regardless of the naysayers. Surround yourself with positive minded people and watch yourself truly succeed.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? It is often said that working hard for what you love will be worth the while. I have to agree with that statement. If you can find the fervor to be a success you will propel yourself to achieve greatness. As you embark on this journey, do it with enthusiasm and enjoy all that comes with it.

Julian Martinez

Julian MartinezJulian Martinez, 21, is a senior at UT Pan American and plans to graduate with a premedical biology and chemistry degree in Spring 2016. He is a graduate of McAllen Memorial High School. Martinez is a part of the Pre-Medical Honors College Program and has earned conditional acceptance into Baylor College of Medicine for Fall 2016. At UTPA, Martinez is a member of the Alpha Lamda Delta and Golden Key International Honor Societies where he frequently volunteers around campus and the community. He also works for the Office of P-16 Initiatives as a collegiate mentor for high school students at McAllen High School and tutors biology, chemistry, and physics at the Learning Assistance Center. Martinez regularly spends his time volunteering and shadowing physicians in local hospitals while also remaining active on the tennis and basketball court.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2012-Spring 2015; UTPA Meritorious Scholarship recipient, Fall 2012-present; Hearst Foundation Pre-Med Scholarship recipient, Fall 2012 and Spring 2013; Pre-Med Scholars Scholarship recipient, Fall 2013 and Spring 2014; Greater Texas Foundation Scholarship recipient, Fall 2014 and Spring 2015; G-Force Mentor of the Month, April 2015; and Intramural Tennis Champion, Fall 2013 and Spring 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation, I will be attending Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. I plan on graduating with a medical degree and pursuing my dream to becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

Do you plan to return to the Valley? After completing my education in medical school in Houston, returning to the Rio Grande Valley remains a tempting option for me. It would be a pleasure to assist the community that molded me into the person that I am today. The Valley will always be home to me and it would be a privilege to be a part of its health care system.

What has your education done for you? My education has not only opened many doors but has also opened my mind to think both critically and creatively. The education I have received at UTPA has led me to grow as a person and has allowed me to obtain a tighter grasp on both local and world issues. I have gained valuable insight and have acquired a strong skill set that I will carry on with me for the rest of my life.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My experience as a UTPA Bronc has been a fruitful one due to the many opportunities and people that I have come face to face with. The professors at UTPA have been nothing short of brilliant and have opened my eyes to the world of medicine. I am forever grateful for the strong relationships I have made with UTPA students and faculty.

What is your best tip for success? First, I believe it is crucial for people to find a subject or issue that they are passionate about. The next step is to then work hard to try and make a difference in that field. It is key to never give up on the idea that there is always room for growth and improvement. One must never get discouraged on the path to becoming the best.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? College-bound students should enter higher education with an open mind and a heart full of enthusiasm. There will be many humbling moments while in college but it is important to keep your head up high and learn from every situation. I encourage students to get as involved with their university and community as possible. Students should never be afraid to expose themselves to the unique opportunities that college has to offer.


Priya Darshni JagadeesanPriya Darshni Jagadeesan, 20, will graduate May 2016 with degrees in biology and psychology and minors in chemistry and business administration. She is enrolled in the Premedical Honors College, a eight-year combined medical program with Baylor College of Medicine. She has been inducted into Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, in which she held the positions of community service chair and Relay for Life Community Outreach chair. Jagadeesan has also been involved in the Environmental Awareness Club, Habitat for Humanity, and the Society for Conservation of Biology. She has volunteered at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in various departments such as pediatrics, nursery and rehabilitation. She participated in research with Dr. Bimal Banik in UTPA’s Department of Chemistry. Jagadeesan has also been a teaching assistant in the biology department for Biology 1401 and 1402 courses. Currently, she is volunteering with Hidalgo County Emergency Medical Services.

Awards/Honors: Deans List, Fall 2012-Spring 2015; Hearst Foundation Scholarship, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2014, and Spring 2015; Kleberg Foundation Scholarship, Fall 2014; and Rising Scholars Scholarship, Fall 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? Following my graduation next May, I plan on attending Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and earning my medical degree. After obtaining my medical degree, I hope to specialize in neurology.

Do you plan to return to the Valley? I will be going to Houston for medical school, but after finishing my residency and fellowship, I definitely plan on returning to the Valley. My parents live in the Valley, and my father is a physician in Mission. I hope to one day join his practice and follow in his footsteps.

What has your education done for you? I attended the Science Academy in Mercedes for high school and I am proud to have studied at one of the best public schools in the country. During my time at UTPA, I have become more confident, self sufficient and worldly. I feel my education has given me the tools I need to be a good doctor and the best person I can be.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? The UTPA campus is more than Pan American; it is truly international. At UTPA, I have had the privilege of studying under very accomplished professors. Being a part of the Premedical Honors College has prepared me for the rigors of medical school. My adviser, Dr. Cindy Wedig, has been a truly amazing mentor. She has encouraged and inspired me in many ways. It was because of her encouragement that I had the opportunity to become a teaching assistant (TA) even as an undergraduate. As a TA, I have experienced the other side of education, and appreciate the efforts and dedication of all my professors.

What is your best tip for success? To be successful, hard work and motivation are the two most vital qualities. If you’re not lucky enough to be born with these traits, they can be developed. In addition, organization and time management are essential to keep you on track. Finally, take full advantage of any opportunities that pop up.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? My advice to students is to hit the ground running in the first few semesters of college. The first semesters are generally easier and the higher GPA you get then will offset any difficulty you have in the later semesters, when classes become tougher.

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