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Cassandra A. Gonzalez

Cassandra GonzalezCassandra A. Gonzalez, 21, plans to graduate from The University of Texas-Pan American in December 2014 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and a minor in mass communications. She graduated from South Texas Business, Education & Technology Academy in Edinburg in 2011. At UTPA she is a member of the UTPA Chapter of the American Advertising Federation, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society, and the Golden Key Honour Society. In the community, Gonzalez has volunteered with the American Cancer Association and at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church & School. In 2011-2012, she was a member of the UTPA Women’s Chorus. Currently Gonzalez works on campus as an account executive intern with the UTPA Marketing and Communications Department.

Awards/Honors: University Scholars Scholarship, 2011-2014; A.J. Ginsberg Marketing Scholarship, 2013-2014; College of Business Administration Dean’s Scholar, 2012-2014; and Dean’s List, 2011-2014.

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation I would like to test out the marketing field and see where that takes me. I do know that I’d like to stay in the non-profit sector if at all possible.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? I plan to explore the opportunities that are here in the Valley. I would like to at least begin my career here and see where I can go from there. There is a lot of growth in this area, particularly in the business world. I would like to do my part to give back to the RGV however I can and be a part of that growth.

What has your education done for you? Getting an education has expanded my mind in too many ways to describe. It has given me the tools I need for my future career and has made me a better person. I’ve learned how to think for myself and make my own judgments. The skills I’ve gained throughout my education go beyond the classroom; they can be applied to life in general.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? As I begin my fourth year at UTPA, I am realizing how much I have grown as a person and a student in the last few semesters. I am taking classes about topics that I am passionate about and figuring out how I want to apply the knowledge I’ve acquired to the rest of my life. I believe these courses have affected me so deeply because of who teaches them. The UTPA Marketing Department consists of many professors and graduate students with real-world experience who really care about their students. Thanks to them, the experiences I have had in and out of class have challenged me in very rewarding ways.

What is your best tip for success? My best tip for success is to do something you really care about. This might sound idealistic, but choosing a major or a career for the wrong reasons won’t benefit you in the long run. Look for a profession that appeals to every aspect of who you are. It may seem impossible, but there’s something out there for everyone.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? My advice is to enter college with an open mind. If you’re ready to learn, the possibilities are endless.

Simona Ilizarov

Simona IlizarovSimona Ilizarov, 20, a junior at The University of Texas-Pan American, plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications – public relations/advertising track and a minor in English with a goal to graduate in May 2016. Ilizarov began working for the University in Fall 2013 as a Collegiate G-Force mentor at McAllen High School. She has offered personal insight by mentoring students on ways to be successful and smoothly transition into college. One of her most rewarding memories during her time at McAllen High School was speaking to a group of young mothers about female empowerment and the invaluable opportunities college has to offer. Throughout college, she has volunteered at various community events, most recently with the Student Alumni Association. Aside from being a student, she has enjoyed dancing at Sonia Chapa Dance Studio and teaching children the fundamentals of tumbling. Ilizarov recently began working at UTPA’s Office of Public Affairs. This job will allow her to expand her knowledge in the field she wants to pursue and gain professional development through hands-on experience. She hopes to engage in more student organizations as her college career continues. Before the end of this coming school year, Ilizarov has set a goal to study abroad.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2012-Fall 2013.

What are your plans after graduation? I plan to attend graduate school. As I learn more about my field of study, I want to discover what I’d like to specialize in. I want to venture out and study in a bigger city. It’s not just about my academics; it’s life’s journey as a whole that I want to immerse myself in. I have a lot to learn and graduating with my undergrad degree will only be the beginning.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? I moved from Long Island, New York at the age of 10 and have lived in the Valley ever since. I do envision myself beginning a career outside the Valley; however, ultimately it’s wherever my future decides to take me.

What has your education done for you? Education has provided me with wisdom and knowledge that I will continue expanding on. It hasn’t just taught me what’s written in books, it’s offered me experiences. Taking on new opportunities has allowed me to grow into an ambitious young woman. I feel more aware of myself, and what I strive to endeavor in life.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? My experience at UTPA has been impactful. I have met some of the most amazing professors and professionals who have given me the type of guidance I don’t think I could have received anywhere else. UTPA helped me find what I am passionate about. The knowledge, skill, and self-discovery that I have gained at UTPA are things I would not trade for the world.

What is your best tip for success? It is important to take full advantage of what college has to offer. Work experience, Involvement with organizations, leadership roles, perseverance, and a driven attitude are keys to success in my book.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Be pro-active! Don’t sit around and wait for things to happen; make them happen. Work hard and understand that failure happens and that does not mean you won’t be successful. In fact, that’s only a stepping stone. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and set a goal. When you have a goal, you have preconceived a point of direction for yourself.

Laura Lisa Salinas

PIELauraSalinasAug3RussellLaura Lisa Salinas, 19, is a junior at The University of Texas-Pan American and plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Business Administration in management and minors in chemistry and medical Spanish in 2016. She graduated from IDEA Quest Academy and College Preparatory in 2012. At UTPA, Salinas is a member of the 2016 cohort of the Pre-Medical Honors College, which has gained her an early acceptance into Baylor College of Medicine. She is involved on campus with Alpha Lambda Delta where she serves as senior adviser, Golden Key International Honour Society, Premedical Biomedical Society, National Society of Collegiate Scholars and serves as a member on both the Faculty Research Council and the Student Union Advisory Board. Salinas regularly volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House at Edinburg Children’s Hospital and at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2012-Spring 2014; Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, Spring 2014; and The Rafael “Felo” A. & Carmen Guerra Honors Program student, 2013-present;

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation, I will move to Houston, where I will enroll in Baylor College of Medicine as part of the Pre-Medical Honors College. Ultimately my goal is to become a doctor and return to give back to my community.

Do you plan to return to the Valley? I’ve always felt that it is extremely important to give back to the community that helped raise you. With all the opportunities I have been blessed with, I know it will be imperative that I return to pay my thanks to this community as well as become a part of the Valley’s health care system.

What has your education done for you? My education has helped open many doors for new opportunities. From scholarships to seminars, my education has allowed me to thrive and continue to achieve success.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? UTPA has completely surpassed my expectations. The professors are always willing to help and students are determined to succeed. I know that when I look back at my undergraduate experience, I’ll know that I made the best decision in attending UTPA.

What is your best tip for success? My best tip for success is to never stop improving and never settle for mediocrity. Since I started at UTPA, I know I have grown as a person and a student and this is because I know that in order to achieve your goals you must continue to push boundaries.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? The advice I always give to college-bound students is to begin college with a strong desire to succeed. While most students come in with this, they become overwhelmed with the stark difference between high school and college and that makes their first semester difficult. Additionally, I encourage college-bound students to get as involved as their schedule allows. The opportunities at UTPA are endless and it is important that students take advantage of what UTPA has to offer us.

Kristela Garza

Kristela GarzaKristela Garza , 22, is a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American who will graduate in August 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a minor in global security studies. Throughout her time at UTPA she has attended the Washington Leadership Institute, the Summer Seminar: Foundations hosted by the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence and has traveled abroad to Morocco and Spain. She has also reported for the University newspaper, The Pan American. In addition, Garza has completed an internship with the U.S. Census Bureau in Maryland.

Honors/Awards: Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges, 2014; Texas Grant, 2009-present; and Lacks Valley Scholarship recipient, 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? Because of the opportunities afforded to me by the UT Pan American as well as the Global Security Studies program, I have decided that I would be happiest with a career in civil service, for either the nation or the state. In a communications position I know I could use my experience in journalism to serve the public to the best of my ability. However, a full time job in journalism would be a dream come true as well.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? Although I consider the Valley my home I would really love to move somewhere out of state to explore. However, if I were offered a good job close to home I would gladly take it.

What has your education done for you? My education at the University has given me direction. I was guided to my current major after fumbling around for a semester or two, eventually finding my way to the student newspaper. Through that experience I learned the true meaning of late nights and own several thermoses. But I have also grown as a person and a lifelong learner. My education here has given me the courage to move toward my goals in a way I never could before.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? To be honest UTPA was originally my third choice school; it was close to home and affordable, so I stayed. However, throughout my years here I have seen the world, interned in Washington, D.C. and have grown into a person who knows what they want in life and how to get it. But what is most important to me are the connections and experiences I enjoyed at this University. I found my place at UTPA, and, with the help of my minor, I found my passion for journalism and get to work with some of the best and brightest at the University on a day-to-day basis. What more can one ask for out of your college experience? For all this I will forever be thankful.

What is your best tip for success? Success is a relative term for me because I have experienced many disappointments in my college career. But everything led me down the path that I am on now and I am pretty happy. So when it comes right down to it my best tip would be to not be afraid to go after what you want, but if you do make sure that you give it your all.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? You know what you want to do, so do it. And if you don’t know keep moving forward and try different things, clubs and organizations. Find your passion and strive to do something you love for the rest of your life.

Amanda Gutierrez

Amanda GutierrezAmanda Marie Gutierrez, 20, is a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American and plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a minor in sociology in December 2014. Gutierrez graduated from Business Education & Technology Academy in May 2012 with a Distinguished Achievement honor. At UTPA, she became a Certified Level I and Level 2 Tutor and was employed as a tutor by UTPA’s Writing Center, where she has worked for two years. She worked for the UTPA Physics and Geology Department as a teacher’s assistant for Astronomy 1301 labs. In the Fall 2013, Gutierrez completed an internship with Bobby Flores Jr. for the 139th District Court at the Hidalgo County Courthouse in Edinburg and found that to be a rewarding experience. She served on the Parking and Trafficking Committee for Summer 2013 as the undergraduate representative for UTPA and has volunteered for South Texas Literacy Programs founded to encourage literacy amongst adults and children. Gutierrez also interned for The Pan American newspaper, working as a sports writer in Fall 2013. She feels she owes her academic success to the undying encouragement and support of her parents, Robert Gutierrez and Aurora Rodriguez.

Awards/Honors: Kenedy Memorial Scholarship, 2013-2014; Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, 2014; Outstanding Student Award, 2014; Executive Aide: Athletic Consultant for the Student Government Association, 2014; Senator Representative for the Student Government Association, 2013; and Dean’s List, Fall 2012, Spring and Fall, 2013, and Spring 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? I plan to continue into graduate school at UTPA and pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice. I want to eventually pursue a career with the Drug Enforcement Administration or with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? While I intend on traveling throughout my life, my intentions are to stay in the Valley to help promote literacy and crime prevention amongst youths, adults and Hispanic immigrants.

What has your education done for you? My education has broadened my knowledge and philosophy in a crime-preventive perspective, as it has allowed me to consider different alternatives that I will eventually apply as an officer in the field. Moreover, it has allowed me to reconsider my own personal beliefs and question them, and therefore has allowed me to attain a greater understanding of myself.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? Being a student at UTPA has allowed me to surround myself with a talented and diverse set of individuals, each with their own ideas and beliefs. I feel as though I have received a greater understanding of the Hispanic and Mexican-American minority while simultaneously challenging my own leadership skills.

What is your best tip for success? Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and never fail to challenge yourself and place yourself outside of your comfort zone. Listen to others’ opinions, and never reject any on the premise that they’re different from your own. Find a meaning in education that is more significant that a higher-paying job opportunity and change your community for the better.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? If you plan on working during your college experience, find a job on campus; it’s more convenient and your supervisors understand that your priority is your education. Also, your co-workers are also your colleagues and probably have similar goals. Try to become involved at UTPA by joining one of the many organizations the university provides for students.

Fabiola Urgel

FFabiola Urgelabiola Urgel, 21, is a junior at The University of Texas-Pan American with a major in economics and a minor in sociology. She plans to graduate in Summer 2015. She is the president of the UTPA Economics Society. Urgel was also the team leader of the UTPA Up to Us team, which won first place overall in the Up to Us competition, a national contest in which teams of students organize campaigns to raise awareness about the national debt. She works for the department of Economics and Finance and serves as coordinator for the Border Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Symposium and the Financial Literacy Program.

Awards/Honors: Academic Dean’s Outstanding Student Award, Spring 2014; Dean’s List, Spring 2012-present; Dean’s Scholar Award, Spring 2012-present; The International Honor Society Beta Gamma Sigma , Spring 2014; Golden Key International Honour Society, Fall 2013; and The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Fall 2012.

What are your plans after graduation? I want to pursue a joint Ph.D. in economics and public policy. I want to work for the government in an area that would allow me to advocate for minority groups of both the U.S. and Mexico. I want to influence public policy to improve the education, health of our population and the wealth distribution of society. I have two professional goals: the first one is to work for the public sector in projects aimed to support and improve women’s rights, immigration, and the national budget issues. The second one is to work for an international nonprofit organization that focuses on achieving better living standards in developing countries.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? I want to work in a place that allows me to fulfill my career goals. Helping others has always been the force behind every decision I make, so if by staying in the Valley I can contribute to make a positive and significant impact in the community, I would stay.

What has your education done for you? UTPA has been much more than just a university. At UTPA we are a family, a united family, and as a family we all care for each other. Thanks to my professors I’ve been able to discover what I want to do in the future and that is more important than any other subject you can learn in a classroom. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity of having two mentors who have always supported me. I’d like to thank economics professors Dr. Marie Mora and Dr. Alberto Davila for their unconditional encouragement; they have been an essential part of all the great opportunities I’ve had. Studying economics has allowed to open up my eyes to important topics such as inequality, unemployment and poverty in order for me to try to find a way to contribute in the solution of these problems.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I simply feel that choosing UTPA as my college has been the best decision I’ve made in my life.

What is your best tip for success? Never accept a “no” when your heart tells you “yes”. Dedication, perseverance and listening to the right people are essential for success. Always find a mentor!

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Invest in education, never underestimate the value of a degree. College is definitely one of the best experiences in life. Attend college, be involved, look for opportunities and strive for greatness.

Erika Vallejo

Erika VallejoErika Lee Vallejo, 20, is a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American and plans to graduate with honors in Spring 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in pre-law and philosophy and a minor in legal studies. She is a proud 2011 graduate of Grulla High School. Vallejo is a graduate of the Student Leadership Academy and currently serves as the Pre-Law Society historian. This year she received a Who’s Who Among Students Award and participated in the 2014 Great Plains Honors Council. She was also a poster presenter at the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ 8th Annual Research Conference. Vallejo is a community volunteer at the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid wills clinics, and has also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, and Hope in Joy. She recently studied aboard in Vienna, Prague, and Budapest with the Guerra Honors Program.In addition to her studies and volunteer activities, she works for Pathfinder Public Affairs and previously served in 2012 and 2013 as a UTPA Ambassador mentoring six protégés. In July Vallejo will participate in UTPA’s Law School Preparation Institute.

Awards/Honors: The Rafael “Felo” A. & Carmen Guerra Honors Program student, Fall 2012-present; Eta Omicron (HON), Sergeant at Arms, Spring 2014; Phi Kappa Phi, vice president, Spring 2014-present; Pi Sigma Alpha, Spring 2014-present; Dean’s List, Spring 2012-Spring 2014; Jesse H. & Mary G. Jones Scholarship, Fall 2014; and International Women’s Board, GHP Study Abroad, and International Student Program Scholarships, Summer 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? I plan to get my master’s degree in political science at Washington State University and continue my education from there. My goal is to take an educational path that will help me create a better world by mitigating political corruption and socio-economic barriers.

Do you plan to return to the Valley? Yes, I will return to the Valley because it has given so much back to me, and I would love to teach here. Yet, I need to continue my global exploration to better contribute to civil society at home.

What has your education done for you? My educational experiences have taught me that you haven’t truly learned anything unless you use that knowledge to help make positive change in the world around you for civil society. Thanks to the support of my husband, Matthew, and my mother, I have been able to continue pursuing my education. Moreover, thanks to my mentor Dr. Paul Jorgensen, for encouraging me to become a better scholar. I am extremely grateful.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? UTPA has been a home for me. I lived on campus for two years, and because of that I’ve been active within my university and community. Joining the Guerra Honors Program has changed my life both inside and outside of school. I’ve met truly brilliant peers who inspire me to do better. We have amazing faculty and professors at UTPA, and our only job is to learn all we can from them.

What is your best tip for success? Get a planner and a white board. Keep track of everything you need to do, and check it off a daily list. It helps ease anxiety and stress. Every time I check something off a list, it helps me feel more accomplished.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Ask questions; there is no such thing as a bad question. As Steve Jobs once said, “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life…have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Everything else is secondary.

Pauline Castro

Pauline CastroPauline Castro, 21, plans to graduate from The University of Texas-Pan American with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in chemistry in December 2014. She moved to Texas from New Jersey in 2002, and graduated from South Texas High School for Health Professions, where she was salutatorian of the 2010 class. Castro is an active member of the Guerra Honors Program (GHP), and held several officer positions in Eta Omicron Nu (HON), including secretary and study abroad chair. Her involvement in GHP enabled her to study abroad in Paris, France in 2012 and Istanbul and Izmir, Turkey in 2013. Since Spring 2012, she has served as a genetics lab assistant under Dr. Scott Gunn. In the past, she volunteered at South Texas Health Systems hospitals and in UTPA community events, such as HESTEC, The Carnival of The Great Pumpkin, and The Distinguished Speakers Series.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2010-Spring 2014; University Scholars, Fall 2010-Spring 2014; Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, Spring 2014; GHP Study Abroad Scholarship, Summer, 2012 & 2013; International Women’s Board Scholarship, Summer, 2012 & 2013; Jones Academic Scholarship, Fall 2010-2012 & Spring 2011; R.C. and M.G. Fish Scholarship, Spring, 2011; Gateway Scholarship, Fall 2010-Spring 2011; and STISD Education Foundation Scholarship, Fall 2010-Spring 2011.

What are your plans after graduation? I plan to take six months off to work and travel. Those six months will be my last hurrah before I attend graduate school to obtain my doctorate in physical therapy.

Do you plan to return to the Valley? It would be nice to return to the RGV after completing my doctorate. The Valley provided me an excellent environment to strive and thrive in my education. However, I am keeping an open mind and willing to go wherever my career takes me.

What has your education done for you? Growing up, my parents instilled the view that a good education is the first step to having to a successful career. Education is the gift that keeps on giving. My education not only taught me lessons valuable to my future, but also taught me the beauty of learning. Learning happens everyday and everywhere. I am proud of my education and all the lessons it teaches me and will teach me throughout my life.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? It was great! I made new friendships and strengthened old ones. I have deep admiration for my professors. The faculty is always on hand and serve as mentors for their students. I am also happy that UTPA enabled me to study abroad twice. Through those trips, I learned so much about other cultures and about myself. The life-changing experiences I had throughout my time as an undergrad has made me a stronger, more confident person, and for that I am grateful.

What is your best tip for success? In order to succeed, we need to fail. As contradictory as that sounds, it was my failures that taught me life’s greatest lessons. Even though our society looks down upon failures, I learned to embrace them. It is these failures in life that open our eyes to the world around us and push us to be a better person. So if you fail, it’s okay, because you’ll be stronger in the end.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? Don’t procrastinate. Plan ahead. Find a stress reliever. Hit the ground running. Keep things short and simple. Study abroad. And lastly, enjoy college.

Eunice Santana


Eunice SantanaEunice Santana, 22, plans to graduate from The University of Texas-Pan American with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and minors in communication studies and religious studies in Fall  2014. She graduated from Edinburg North High School in 2010. At UTPA, she has been involved in the Student Government Association, Ambassadors Program, Student Leadership Program, Residence Housing Association and Baptist Student Ministry (BSM). Outside of school, she has served her community by participating as a counselor for camps and conferences, such as Congreso, Katalyst,  Bronc Camp, The Valley Summer Project, and Cristo Vive International. Santana  was also part of the Texas Student Lead Team for UTPA’s BSM college ministry. She was a resident assistant for three years and an intern at the Office for Sustainability.  Santana not only serves her community locally,  but has also been fully invested in reaching out to the world as well. She has been a Go Now Missionary for four years, devoting her summers to engage in cross-cultural experiences around the world. As a freshmen Santana traveled with a BSM group to China to teach English.  As a sophomore, she helped host women’s conferences, held children and youth camps and led worship for churches in Cuba, Mexico City, and Puebla. In her junior year she volunteered for Children Emergency Relief International translating for a medical team in Veracruz. This summer she will intern for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association.

Awards/Honors: Dean’s List,  2011; Leadershape,  2011; Residence Life Mentoring Program,  2013; Outstanding Student Leader Award, 2014; and Community Builder of the Year, 2013-2014.

What are you plans after graduation? I plan to continue serving my University by becoming a BSM campus missionary at UTPA. I also plan to pursue my master’s degree in counseling. I want to become a missionary in an underserved area and help people who are hurting, have low self-esteem, and/or need to be encouraged, specifically women.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? Growing up in the Valley has allowed me to see and experience different levels of poverty and need. Living here has made me more aware about the world.  My goal is to serve in a third-world country rescuing trafficked women and people who have been abused in efforts to share Christ with them.

What has your education done for you? Coming to college has opened the door to many opportunities to explore new ideas, myself, and the world. “Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance” -Will Durant. There are still many things to know and learn, but I know that I’ve had the best education a college student could have. I could never have imagined doing all the things that I have done without UTPA.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I am in love with UTPA because it has offered me a home and a family community. Not only has UTPA given me endless opportunities to develop my leadership skills, but also to apply them in the real world. The best part of my college experience was joining the BSM and finding my second home.

What is your best tip for success? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,”-Philippians 2:3. I would encourage every student to allow themselves to learn from others, then take time to teach others what they’ve learned.

What advice do you have for college bound students? “Keep on keeping on” –Joe Dirt. Although things may seem far-fetched, don’t give up, try your best and make an impact!

Jennifer Coello

Jennifer CoelloJennifer Elizabeth Coello, 21, is a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American and plans to graduate in May 2015 with Bachelor of Science in nursing and a minor in medical Spanish. She graduated from Rio Grande City High School in 2011.  Coello is a first-generation college student and the oldest of four children. Coello migrated to Illinois every summer while in high school to work in the corn fields.  Being a migrant farm worker with exceptional grades, she was awarded acceptance into the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at UTPA. Coello studied abroad at in Salamanca, Spain at the Universidad de Salamanca. While at UTPA, Coello has participated in Alternative Spring Break, was a member in the Association for Migrant Students, and served as public relations officer for Habitat for Humanity-UTPA Chapter. She had the honor to be a UTPA Ambassador for the 2012-2013 school year, and is currently the treasurer of the Student Nurse Organization.  Coello has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity building houses for Rio Grande Valley families,  the McAllen H-E-B Feast of Sharing, 17th Annual Texas Butterfly Festival, Relay for Life, Ronald McDonald’s House, and the National Cesar E. Chavez Blood drive.

Honors/Awards: Top Ten Percent Scholarship, 2011 & 2012; Count Me In!  Scholar, 2011 & 2012;  International Student Program Scholarship, 2012; Angel Investor Scholarship, 2013 &2014; Wanda L. Boush Scholarship, 2014 &2015; UTPA Dean’s List, 2011-2013; Alpha Lambda Delta Freshman Honor Society, 2012; Golden Key International Honour Society, 2012; and  Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, 2014.

What are your plans after graduation? My plans after graduation are to work in a Rio Grande Valley hospital and obtain acceptance at UTRGV to continue my education in hopes of becoming a family nurse practitioner and give back to the community that has done so much for me.

Do you plan to stay in the Valley? My plan is to stay in the Valley, work, continue my education and start a family in Valley. The Valley has been my home for 21 years, and I love it here. I love my hometown and the fact that all my family lives here is a huge plus. I plan to one day open my own family practice in Rio Grande City, and continue giving back to the community that shaped me.

What has your education done for you? Education is essential in my everyday life, and I have been blessed with the opportunity to continue learning new information that will help me in my present and future. Education has opened many doors for me, and has allowed me get closer to reaching my dreams in becoming a nurse, and helping others.

How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I wouldn’t trade my UTPA experience for anything else. This University has given my family and me the opportunity to afford higher education. It has also given me the opportunity to meet great people, study abroad, and gain knowledge that no one can take away from me.

What is your best tip for success? The best tip for success is to follow your dreams; set goals and never give up until they are reached. Anything is possible and there is always someone to help or use as a resource.

What advice do you have for college-bound students? My advice for college-bound students is to never give up. Networking is also very essential in succeeding.  There are organizations on campus and internships offered that can be very helpful.

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