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One freshman’s unlikely path to college

August 18, 2014 11:30AM

Isauro Tevalan Maldonado is like many of the thousand or so freshmen beginning classes at PSU this week. He is bright and did well in high school. He is hardworking and has moved from waiting tables in a local restaurant to helping manage the business.

Like his fellow Gorillas, Tevalan Maldonado has big dreams. He is studying electronics engineering technology at PSU and knows if he works hard, some day he will land a good job. Tevalan Maldonado believes, as do most of his classmates, that education is the key that will unlock the door that stands between him and the American dream.

That’s where the comparisons with most of his classmates end.

Isauro Tevalan Maldonado portraitTevalan Maldonado was born in California, where his family had come on a work permit. He spent his childhood there and in Missouri until eight years ago when his parents decided to return to their home country of Guatemala to be near Tevalan Maldonado’s older siblings and grandmother.

But life in Guatemala can be hard, Tevalan Maldonado said. The economy is very poor and there is little opportunity, even for the best students.

So early this year, after he graduated from high school in Guatemala, Tevalan Maldonado came with his brother to the U.S. He traveled as a U.S. citizen and his brother came on a visa.

Tevalan Maldonado landed a job at El Caballo de Oro in Pittsburg where he waited tables and occasionally entertained guests by snatching a guitar from the wall and playing. His original plan was to work for a few months, save some money, and then go back to Guatemala.

Fortunately for Tevalan Maldonado, he was connected with the Kansas Out-of-School Youth (OSY) Advocacy Project at Greenbush. The program is designed to identify young people between the ages of 14 and 21 who have lived a migratory lifestyle in seasonal agricultural work and are not is school, helping them earn their diploma or GED. Students who work in qualifying agricultural industries in Kansas are eligible to receive educational supports through Kansas State Department of Education’s Migrant Education Program.

Rachel Phillips, an instructional specialist and advocate for the Kansas OSY Advocacy Project, worked with Tevalan Maldonado, who “took advantage of absolutely every opportunity provided.”

“I could tell that he was highly self-motivated and ready for the next step in his education,” Phillips said. “It was amazing to watch him latch on to each educational opportunity and excel.”

Phillips said Tevalan Maldonado worked hard to earn his GED.

“Even though he was working long hours nearly every day of the week with many responsibilities to family and work, he always made time for his GED studies,” Phillips said. “He would go to the library each day and study during his work break. The most amazing thing is that no one made him do this. He was tirelessly pursuing his diploma out of his own eagerness to reach the next step in his educational goals.”

With his GED in hand, Tevalan Maldonado went with Phillips to PSU’s College of Technology.

“Isauro was eager to explore what options were available to him in pursuing his interests in computer programming, technology & electronics engineering,” Phillips said. “Knowing that the PSU College of Technology is one of the best in the nation, I felt that it would be a great match for Isauro’s talent and ambition.”

At PSU, Tevalan Maldonado met with faculty members in the College of Technology to learn about the programs they offered. Then he met with staff in the Registrar’s Office and Student Financial Aid who helped walk him through his financial aid paperwork.

“Each PSU staff member was incredibly welcoming and informative,” Phillips said.

Tevalan Maldonado quickly decided PSU was where he needed to be.

On Monday, Tevalan Maldonado’s college career began. Those who have helped him along the way are confident he’ll succeed and Tevalan Maldonado, grateful for the support he has received, says he won’t let them down.

“I’m excited to begin,” he said.

©2014 Pittsburg State University

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