Miami Dade College
Country of Origin: Ecuador
Fernando Villavicencio migrated three years ago from his native Guayaquil, Ecuador. With dreams to become a Mechanical Engineer, he came to the United States in search of the American Dream. When Fernando first arrived to this country, he encountered many obstacles through his journey. His main problem was the fact that he did not speak a word of English and was unable to communicate effectively. In Ecuador, Fernando was an overachiever winning national titles in Science and Mathematics while being actively involved in his community through volunteer service opportunities and church. Due to his inability to speak English, shortly after his arrival, Fernando started working at a company where he disarmed airplanes that were out of commission. He worked 15-hour shifts in order to make extra money to support his mother who was also struggling financially. He recalls these days as being the hardest of his life. He was certain he wanted to pursue an education, but thought it was impossible as a result of his hectic schedule and lack of knowledge of the English language.
However, this did not stop Fernando from continuing to dream of becoming a Mechanical Engineer. While driving home from work after a 15-hour shift, Fernando drove past Miami Dade College, North Campus and suddenly felt a need to stop and inquire information regarding the possibility of pursuing a higher education. Shortly after his first visit to MDC, he registered in the English for Academic Purposes Program (EAP), (link to the Miami Dade Honors Bridge program on Promising Practices page) a program designed for students whose native language is not English and are interested in pursuing a higher education. Due to the flexible schedule the program offers, Fernando was able to register and start immediately. He tested into level 2, and was aware that in order to begin to register for courses in his major, he had to complete the EAP program. While enrolled in EAP, Fernando was very involved as a student leader in the International Language Club as well as actively involved in his community. He excelled academically, while continuing to work long shifts at work and being involved in extra-curricular activities.
Once Fernando completed his coursework in the EAP Program, he applied for admissions and was accepted into the prestigious Honors College of Miami Dade College. Just three years after arriving from Ecuador, Fernando is currently not only attending one of the most prestigious schools in our nation, but also continues to serve his students and his community. Fernando is an executive board member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Senator in the Student Government Association and Mathematics Club, among others. Fernando has also been part of many community service projects and initiatives that have enriched his learning experience while attending Miami Dade College. Fernando has served as an English Tutor in the EAP Program, being part of the All-Nighter for Haiti event, which fundraised over $20,000 to fund a tilapia farm in Haiti, and volunteered in projects such as “A day in the life of a farm worker, Miami Dade College Literacy Campaign, and The Hispanic American Read-In.
While at school he continued to work long shifts at the factory. In April 2011, Fernando graduated with a 3.89 grade point average and was accepted to many high-profile universities. He now attends University of Wisconsin-Madison with a full scholarship, and is majoring in mechanical engineering.
"I am thankful to Miami Dade College and my family for instilling the necessary skills to succeed in today’s millennial society; without their help and support, nothing I have achieved would have been possible,” stated Villavicencio.