After considering a career in the military after high school, Leo decided to begin his college career at a two-year community college.
"I didn't think about going to college after high school. I was actually thinking about joining the military. But after a long talk with my family, I decided to go to community college. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do yet, so I think community college was a good place to start. My family saw a lot of potential in me, and they thought that I had the wrong reasons for going to the military. I had one idea about it — I wanted to travel — but it really isn't how it would have been. So I enrolled at Morton College in Cicero, Ill. My professors were all very understanding about my background, and they encouraged me to pursue my four-year degree. So after Morton, I enrolled at DePaul."
Joining TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) helped Leo as he transitioned from a community college to a selective, private university.
"My transition to DePaul was overwhelming at first. I didn't know where to start. As a transfer student, I felt like I had a lot of unanswered questions. At a friend's suggestion, I applied to join the TRIO SSS program to get help in my transition. SSS has pointed me in a lot of great directions, from financial aid to finding a campus job, as well as with classes. It is also a community — I can use the microwave here, I can study here. They help with so much and have become a community for me."
Through SSS, Leo received mentoring and support that has helped him succeed academically.
"One of my greatest accomplishments is that I can make it through the quarter system! I think that academically, I am better at time management now. I can plan for when my projects are due and when I need to study. I am well-prepared to get things finished on time now. After my undergraduate career, I want to get my doctorate in physical therapy. I had an injury a year and a half ago and got exposed to the field of physical therapy. I have a mentor in the field at DePaul, and he's been great at leading me in this direction.
"I never thought I would be here. If it wasn't for SSS, I probably wouldn't be on top of my grades, I wouldn't have my volunteer position or campus job, or have met my mentor — I owe it all to being in SSS and the opportunities they make available. I'm going to use all these opportunities to pursue my career in physical therapy."