ROTC Cadet Val Gonzalo still remembers doing pushups and situps with her cousins when she was 5 years old.
“They told me I was really good and that I would be a good fit in the military. That experience really stuck with me and it carried me to where I am today,” said Gonzalo who is graduating this June from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Science in business and a double major in management and finance.
Gonzalo had to convince her parents it was a good idea to go into the military. They originally did not approve of her joining the ROTC program.
“Most of my cousins are serving in the military — my grandfather is a veteran and my sister is a nurse in the Air Force — so I was eventually able to convince my parents and they ended up being proud of my choice. It turned out to be a great act of defiance,” Gonzalo added with a smile.
Gonzalo knew she wanted to go to DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business because of its reputation, the fact that it is in the heart of Chicago, and because of the valuable leadership skills she would acquire.
“DePaul really gave me a lot of opportunities to grow as a student and young professional,” she said.
She was instantly enamored by the ROTC program and took to heart the lessons she learned from her training. “I was told it is not about meeting standards, it’s about exceeding standards,” said Gonzalo.
“The leadership in the ROTC program at DePaul, especially when I was a freshman, was excellent. They treat you like adults, they want you to succeed and become a better person,” she said.
“Val cares about her education and getting the most from it,” said Rhonda Bartosik, academic advisor in the Driehaus College of Business. “She is aware of what she wants her future to be and continues to strive and work hard towards her goals.”
Bartosik was Gonzalo’s academic advisor and saw how much she grew and matured as a business student and ROTC member.
“She embodies DePaul by learning all she can, being a true team player and sharing her knowledge with fellow students along the way. Her Vincentian demeanor comes through immediately and her smile is contagious. I know she will represent DePaul and her country to the highest standard,” said Bartosik.
In addition to giving her structure and growth opportunities, the ROTC program gave Gonzalo a support system and taught her how to look out for others and help those in need of assistance.
“They taught me not only how to be a leader, but also a good person and to never let others down,” said Gonzalo. After graduation she plans to use her knowledge to become a leader in the U.S. Army.
One of the experiences that stuck with Gonzalo while in DePaul’s ROTC program was when she traveled to Romania on the cultural understanding and language proficiency program. This program gave Gonzalo the opportunity to train with Romanian paratroopers and teach them about American culture, while also learning about their language and culture.
“Through the program we worked with them to foster a relationship with their forces as well as help them practice their language skills,” said Gonzalo. “It was truly a life-changing experience for me and a great way to learn about a beautiful country.”
After graduation Gonzalo will travel to Arizona and participate in the Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Huachuca. For the next four years she will carry with her the life lessons she learned at DePaul as she becomes a leader in the Army.
“In the ROTC there is discipline; you gain responsibility, you understand what loyalty is and what duty means,” said Gonzalo. “I want to use my experiences and connections in the military to help people. When I was a freshman, I was always taught to never leave a fallen comrade, or fellow person behind.”
One in a series of stories about graduates from the Class of 2015