These graduates have amazing stories and aspirations, and vow to be changemakers!
Miami, April 18, 2018 – Brimming with pride and a sense of accomplishment, nearly 17,000 graduates from Miami Dade College’s (MDC) eight campuses will boldly take their first step into a brighter future when they walk across the stage with their diplomas at five Commencement Ceremonies on Saturday, May 5.
MDC’s 2017 graduates represent more than 190 countries and speak more than 90 languages. They are game changers, many already making a significant impact on their communities and intent on addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues through scientific research, health care, international relations, technology, entrepreneurship, business development, and much more.
Meet some of this year’s outstanding graduates:
After six years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps, Victor Garnica decided to pursue a business degree at MDC. Now he is first in his family to graduate from college and plans to complete a master’s degree in business administration and teach economics. He is a recipient of the Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education and Coca-Cola Military Leader of Promise scholarship. Garnica has served in All-Florida Academic Team, Phi Theta Kappa Florida Region Distinguished Chapter Officer and received the Presidential Volunteer Service Medal for 240 hours of community service. He was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal for providing humanitarian aid after the 2011 Tohuku earthquake, tsunami & radiation leak in Japan.
Renzo Cavero is a chemistry major with a desire to help others. He founded the N.O.B.L.E Project (Non-profit Organization Believing in Love for Everyone) to help send relief and aid to an impoverished region in Peru. He prepared more than 80 baskets filled with artwork from children at the Homestead local migrant center, which fostered a cross-cultural bridge between children of two continents and created a pen pal system to learn about each other’s culture. A QuestBridge Scholar, he also tutored children from the migrant center in science and mathematics, volunteered at Gold Coast Railroad Museum, served as President of the Art Club and Vice President of National Honor Society. Cavero graduates with a high school diploma and associate degree through the renowned School of Advanced Studies at the Homestead Campus. He plans to study medicine or veterinary science and has applied to Columbia University.
Brayan Ruiz is on his way to fulfilling his dream of becoming sport medicine doctor. Last year, the 17-year-old won a Posse Foundation Scholarship, which provides full four-year tuition at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. He also applied to Franklin College and Marshall College. The biology major tutored students in math in his community, volunteered at the Gold Coast Railroad, and was involved in the Health Occupations Students of America for two years, where he won first and second place in district and state competitions. His parents emigrated from Colombia. He feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend MDC and complete dual high school and associate degrees. “There are so many opportunities available to aspiring students like myself in this country. I wanted to take advantage of all of them.”
After immigrating from Cuba six years ago, Gabriela Rodriguez discovered she had breast cancer. Her diagnosis did not stop her drive to succeed. Despite her doctor telling her that her education would be disrupted by treatment, Rodriguez was an Honors College student, president of Phi Theta Kappa honor society and a volunteer to help those affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The biology major’s desire is to help others has prompted her to seek to become a cardiothoracic surgeon.
Born and raised in Cuba, Laura Rodriguez was determined to help other immigrants adapt to a new country by volunteering with Advocate for Immigrants Scholars, which helps those struggling to learn a new language. She is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, the Student Government Association and Farm Share, among others. She plans to pursue a bachelor’s in international relations and then a law degree with a focus in international business.
Even when she’s not in class, Mireysa Gonzalez uses her skills and knowledge for fun. She recently created an application to find books using Google Books. With a background in design, she also enjoys creating art prints for nurseries, children’s room decorations and prints for weddings. Gonzalez will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in an information systems technology major and plans to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology to complete a master’s in computer science. She is a recipient of the Grow with Google Challenge Scholarship, Second Place in the South Florida Smart Cities Contest and AT&T Aspire to Tech Scholarship. Her parents, who emigrated from Nicaragua, have inspired her to succeed. “I want to make my parents proud by becoming the first in my family to obtain a doctorate.”
Born in Cuba, Brenda Coromina was raised by her mother and grandmother in Miami. Now the international relations major is headed for Georgetown University and hopes to participate in the Peace Corps and one day work for the State Department. MDC afforded her the best opportunities after graduating from high school and allowed her time to learn discipline, mature and grow into herself, she said. In addition to her studies at MDC, she served as president of the YES! For Environmental Sustainability Club. Coromina is also a talented piano player and holds a diploma in social music from the National Guild of Piano Teachers.
Born and raised in Cuba, Katia Calleja became enrolled in MDC’s REVEST program, which serves the English language and vocational training needs of adult refugees. Fifteen years later, at age 39, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Calleja has worked at Baptist, Palmetto and Jackson South hospitals. She plans to pursue a master’s in nursing at Barry University.
Raised in a small Haitian immigrant family, Marc-Enel Louis is among the first generation in his family to graduate from college. He is currently employed at Jackson Memorial’s main hospital as a senior ER technician and was previously employed at Miami Dade ambulance. He will graduate from the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program. His goal is to become a physician assistant.
Ashley Kirkland became homeless as a sophomore in high school after her mother died from cancer in 2013. Describing herself as a student who continuously seeks challenges, she can count among her many accolades as being on MDC’s Academic Dean’s List, a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society and a recipient of the Academic Dream scholarship. The biology major will attend Cornell University. Kirkland’s ultimate goals include pursuing a combined M.D./Ph.D., owning a laboratory and receiving the National Medal of Science award for neuroscience.
Liya Musiyenko immigrated from the Ukraine in 2002. Her parents struggled with addiction and her father was incarcerated multiple times. She became homeless but her drive to succeed never diminished. Musiyenko was the recipient of the American Dream, Colgate Bright Smiles and Educate Tomorrow awards. She will graduate with a bachelor’s in biological sciences and will attend the U.S. Airforce Officer Candidate Physician Assistant Program.
Diego Rodrigues comes from Brazil where his family lived in a low income, high crime area. He was actively involved in several campus organizations including the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, the engineering club and the film society. He plays several musical instruments and is skilled in the martial arts. The mechanical engineering major plans to attend the University of Central Florida and would like to work in the aerospace industry for the Department of Defense.
Due to social, political and economic instability in El Salvador, Francisco Gallegos Binder and his family moved to the United States. While at MDC, he aimed to become a leader and inspire other students. To this end, he became founding officer and president of both the Phi Beta Lambda and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society chapters on the West Campus. The business administration major will attend Florida International University and aspires to work in the financial services industry.
International Relations major, Guoda Terleckaite, was born and raised in Lithuania and moved to Miami with her family in 2012, in search of better opportunities. She found them at MDC, where she founded the Wolves in Training Peer Mentoring Program. She is also president of Women Empowerment Club; Ambassador of GenUN: UNA-USA Chapter at MDC; and Junior Editor of Metromorphosis, the Wolfson Campus’ student literary magazine. She was awarded the Braman Family Scholarship; Florida Bright Future Medallion Scholarship and the Honors College Scholarship. She has applied to Georgetown; Tufts and Duke, among other top tier universities, and aspires to work at an intergovernmental organization, such as the World Bank.
Lucas Rengifo-Keller was raised by artistic parents — his mother is a visual artist and father a performer – but he his interests took him in a completely different direction…economics. The family fled Venezuela due to political and economic turmoil and lived in Costa Rica for a time before moving to Miami. Rengifo-Keller has applied to Georgetown University. His dream is to work as an economist at the World Bank or International Monetary Fund and help impoverished people in developing countries through sound policy and addressing social challenges. He also worked as a finance intern at the Borinquen Medical Center last fall. At MDC, he participated in Single Stop, Informal Politics Club and the Human Rights Alliance. “MDC is, above all, a motor of upward mobility for all who are willing to embrace its opportunities,” he said.