Renaissance Student Overcomes Obstacles And Succeeds

York College senior, Juan Carlos Recinos could be described as a Renaissance man for the new millennium.

At a mere 22 he has already published four books of poetry, has a novel in progress and contributes to a York College literary magazine, Inequitedes Haspanas/Latino Concern; and Hybridos at the CUNY Graduate Center.

As if that weren’t enough, he is also a contributor to community newspapers, El Correo de Queens; and to Queens Latino. He is a Spanish tutor in the York College SEEK program and was a swim instructor and head lifeguard for York’s Health and Physical Complex. Through all of this, he has maintained and will graduate with an impressive grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 – a proud member of the Class of 2012.

Recinos, a Spanish and Teacher Education major, came to York as a transfer student from New York City College of Technology where he was majoring in Computer Information System.

Serendipitously, he met two York professors at a book signing for their own works. Dr. Sonia Rivera-Valdes and Dr. Margarita Drago made an impression on the budding writer who had gone to see them at Sister's Uptown Bookstore; and he essentially followed them back to York in 2008.

Juan Carlos came to the United States in 2000 at the age of 11 from his native country of El Salvador in time to start seventh grade. He would go on to graduate from Long City High School.

“During my high school years I faced many obstacles and one of them was my parents’ economic status,” he says. “My stepfather was disabled due to an accident and my mother did not have a stable job. These difficulties did not discourage me, quite the opposite in fact. They encouraged me to study and work hard.”

As a foreign student, Juan Carlos does not qualify for aide and must work to pay his way through college plus rent and other living expenses. He has taken jobs as a nanny and a seasonal lifeguard, among others. However, the nanny assignments left him little time to study and rest; he was forced to abandon that venture.

“My parents’ financial situation has not changed,” he says. “So it remains that the only thing they can offer me is a heartfelt, “Muy bien, sigue para adelante, que illegaras muy lejos” (Very good, keep moving forward and you will accomplish your dreams). My parents are not familiar with any formal education system. I wish I could receive the type of support I need besides their kind words.”

But he is breaking the cycle of under-education and poverty.

“I will be the first person in my family to attend and graduate from college,” he says. “I have pushed myself hard to attain this dream as well as to give back to my community.”

Recinos says when he met Drago and Rivera-Valdes he realized how important writing was to him and he also discovered that his future was in teaching (grades 7-12) and York was the best place for that training.

“I wanted to be taught by great professors and by models of exceptional teaching methods,” says Recinos, listing a dizzying list of faculty, staff and fellow-students who have supported his success at York. “I find the professors at York College to be this way.”

Selflessly, Recinos also believes in the power of paying it forward. At Schneps Communications, Inc. El Correo de Queens where he is a reporter and photographer, he takes time to mentor new Latino writing talents.

“I have learned that by extending a hand to those in need boosts their self-confidence and self-worth, which are traits that money cannot buy,” says Recinos, who plans to pursue a Master’s of Science in Publishing (print and digital media) at NYU upon graduation from York.

Among those on Recinos’ list of supporters at York are Dr. Lindamichelle Barron, Dr. Margarita Drago and Dr. Sonia River-Valdes, Dr. Joseph Tillman and Dr. Thomas Jordan.

“It is clear that I haven’t walked my walk alone,” he says.

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