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Student Spotlight: Manny


Manny is a rising senior at STRIVE Prep SMART. He wants to go to college in order to support his family one day, and repay them for all of the sacrifices they have made in coming to the US. We talked with Manny to learn more about his goals and what inspires him.


Why is going to college important to you?

Going to college is important to me because I want to be able to give back to my parents, who have sacrificed so much for me. I want those sacrifices to be worth something. I also want to go out into the world and do something that no one in my family has ever done.


How will Access Opportunity help you overcome obstacles on your college and career journey?

Access Opportunity offers me so much support, especially with college. I’ve never had that before. I’ve had some support at my school, but not on a personal level like I’ve had at Access Opportunity. Whenever I’m having a dilemma in my life, whether it be personal or academic, I can always go ask for help and there is always someone there for me. 


Tell us about how Access Opportunity is making a difference in your life and your family’s life.

My parents have never thought about college as much as they do now – it never felt like an option for me. But now with Access Opportunity, they know more about college and understand that it’s something I want to do and will do. They are fully supportive of it and like to be involved in the process. 


What are some ways you would like to give back to your community one day?

I hope to be able to go back to some of my old schools and talk to the students there one day. I want to be a role model for them, since I was one of them. I’ve never really had that, but if I could go and describe my experience, then hopefully they will want to do something great in their lives as well. I would tell them that it will be hard and it will be struggle, but if you look for it, you can find the support you need. I would also tell them that it is possible, no matter who you are, and they can do it.


Tell us about your dream job.

Something that I’ve always been interested in is architecture engineering. I think it’s the perfect fit for me – I love science, I love math, and I love working with my hands. I want to create something that will stay there for years, like a skyscraper or a house - something that I can look at and say, “Wow, I made that. All my work has paid off.”


Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years, I hope I have my dream job and that I’m studying for my PhD. I also want to be able to support my parents financially. I want to show them that their hard work paid off - now they can take it easy and I’ll support them. 


Who would you choose to speak at your college graduation?

I would choose my mom. I want her to be proud of me and I also want her to share her experience from a mother’s standpoint, because I know it’s hard for her as well. She works hard and supports me through everything. She takes me to all of the places I need to go, like practice, school, and Access Opportunity workshops. I’m really proud of her and I would like her to speak on her experience and her thoughts. 


Who is your biggest role model or inspiration?

My mom always, of course. My other role model is Cristiano Ronaldo – as a soccer player myself, I admire him so much. His dedication to his work inspires me. It’s hard to be as great as he is for multiple years and I think that comes from his drive, desire, and overall confidence. 


Tell us about your extracurricular activities.

I play soccer and I’m also involved with National Honor Society. I do volunteer work with NHS about once a week including fundraisers, helping at animal shelters, etc. I’ve really enjoyed helping in my local community through NHS, including tutoring middle schoolers and helping with their Field Day. I also do construction work with my dad.


What is something you are really passionate about?

I’m passionate about helping my sister and being a role model for her. I babysit her a lot while my parents work. I help her with her homework and I helped a lot recently when she had an injury. I want her to look up to me. I talk to my sister about going to college a lot – I tell her to keep doing what she’s doing, because I’m pretty sure she’s smarter than me, which is great. If I can make it, then she can definitely make it. 


If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

I would go to Italy - it has such a rich culture and I would love to learn the language. I also love all of the architecture, as well as their passion for soccer.


Something interesting we might not know about you?

I’m extremely competitive – whether it be games, sports, or scholarships. I want to be the best and I try to succeed in everything I do. 

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