Julio Mansilla and Bernardo Falcon, two of the 1,000 students who graduated from Southern Connecticut State University stood out for many reasons last Friday. Both had encountered long, difficult trips to the graduation stage, to achieve their goals.
“I am very happy to be graduating; it took me longer than I wanted, but I finally reached my goal,” said Mansilla.
Those sentiments echoed by Falcon, “I am super happy to be graduating because I will be going to law school and this was the hardest thing for me to do, but I was successful.”
Mansilla, a New Haven resident, had originally dropped out of Southern after one semester. “I was having a hard time working over 50 hours a week and keeping up with school as a full time student. I decided to concentrate on work as the extra time would mean extra money for me,” said Mansilla.
He was working as a bartender, a few years later, when he was stabbed one night after closing. A few months later he was stabbed again when he was walking home from work. That was when Mansilla decided he wanted more from life and re-enrolled at Southern. “Going back to school is one of the best investments you can do, not only are you opening doors for yourself and your family, but you are also bettering your community,” said Mansilla.
Friday, he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science with a concentration in Information Systems. Mansilla currently just finished an internship at A100, an apprenticeship program for aspiring software developers. He is now interviewing with their parent company, Indie-Soft and plans to continue his education. “I plan to go back to school for a second undergraduate degree first, and after I would like to attend graduate school. I decided to do it this way because the first year at my job will be an intense learning experience, and I want to concentrate on that. Once my second degree is done I will have the time, experience, and the financial stability I want for graduate school,” said Mansilla.
Lisa Lancor, one of Mansilla’s Computer Science professors found Mansilla’s story so inspiring that she hopes to have him back at Southern one day. ” Julio is a great role model for some of the young men and women coming up through the program. He is an example of perseverance and grit, and all these things you need to be successful. I would love to have him come back and be a part of this program,” said Lancor.
Falcon is also a New Haven resident, who moved here from Peru, seeking better financial opportunities for him and his family. “When in Peru, I was born into hardships and I wanted to seek a better life. I wanted to live the American dream and have income stability,” said Falcon.
He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science on Friday. Falcon is currently looking for work, but has applied to seven law schools. He is hoping to get into one around Connecticut to stay close to his two children, but will not know where he has been accepted until June. “Ideally, I want to go to Western New England School of Law in Connecticut so I can stay close to my family,” said Falcon.
One of Falcon’s professors has high hopes for him in the future. “He is caring, funny and a wonderful person. He is special and sacrificed a lot for his family, and he has a lot to offer to the world,” said Patricia Olney, a Political Science professor at Southern.
And to no ones surprise, Mansilla and Falcon have advice for students who face similar challenges they encountered.
“I just want to remind everyone that investing in one’s self is one of the best things that someone can do in their life, not just for them, but for their families and the community they live in,” said Mansilla.
“There is always time to go back to school, even though it is not easy. Nobody should ever say that someone cannot do something,” said Falcon.