—Took inspiration from his Professors
I was a good student growing up. I enjoyed going to school and tried to maintain a high GPA. Most of my friends went to Damien High School so I followed suit. Some people may find it strange that I attended an all-male Catholic high school, but I truly enjoyed it. It felt like a brotherhood. When I eventually transferred to Aquinas High School, it was not the same. I missed Damien. To this day I still wish that I had graduated from there. Instead, I have a GED.
Due to personal issues that I was facing at the time, I dropped out of high school when I turned 18. I no longer enjoyed school. The next few years brought some unique challenges, such as the death of my father and a struggle to find meaning in my life. Eventually I joined the Army National Guard and started getting my life back on track. It was shortly afterwards that I enrolled at San Bernardino Valley College, an entire decade after I dropped out of high school.
I started out slowly to get my feet wet. One class here, two classes there. I even completed a couple classes while deployed to Cuba. Over time I increased my course load, and my first semester at Crafton Hills College was as a full-time student. I became interested in Crafton because its computer science program aligned better with my university transfer requirements, and the transfer process from Valley was seamless.
While at Crafton Hills College I met Professor Frank Madrid. My introduction to him was somewhat insulting as he insinuated that self-taught programmers are not real programmers. Programming had been a hobby of mine since I was a teenager, and I felt as though I was proficient at it. Over three semesters Frank proved to me that I did not know nearly as much as I believed. He taught me not only how to be a “real programmer” but also how to think like a computer scientist. Frank was not only my professor but also my mentor and my friend.
On May 18, 2020, the Monday of finals week, Frank died. He was 33. It was unexpected and left his students in shock. The final was cancelled, and our class abruptly ended. The experience was surreal. Coincidentally, I received my medal of distinction in the mail on the same day he died. I worked hard to graduate with a 4.0, and I felt like life was slapping me in the face. My GPA suddenly seemed meaningless.
About a month before his death, Frank selected me as the 2020 computer science student of the year. He saw something in me that I did not see in myself. He encouraged me to continue my education when I was considering stopping after Crafton and entering law enforcement. Now, not only will I be starting my junior year at CSU Monterey Bay in the Spring, but I also have plans to eventually become a mathematics or computer science teacher. Frank inspired me to alter the course of my life, and I hope that I can do the same for my future students. If I had not transferred to Crafton Hills College, I would not have become who I am today.