When Vladimir Saldana moved to Lowell from the Dominican Republic at 10 years old, he couldn’t speak English. But he was a fast learner, moving into mainstream classes within eight months. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Saldana, a graduating senior majoring in business finance, was recognized as one of “29 Who Shine” – an honor awarded to a student from each of the state’s public colleges and universities who has a strong academic record and has made contributions to society.
Surrounded by his parents and sisters, Saldana was excited about his first-time visit to the State House and hearing Gov. Deval Patrick speak.
“Each one of these students has a remarkable story to tell,” said Patrick at the awards ceremony. “Collectively, they remind us that investing in them is investing in our future.”
“I felt that the governor was speaking directly to me,” said Saldana. “He didn’t have a script and I could tell that he meant what he was saying. It made me feel powerful, that I could accomplish anything.”
Saldana, a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, has assumed leadership roles on campus. He became a resident adviser in the fall of 2012 and is the academic success chair of the organization Men Achieving Leadership, Excellence and Success (M.A.L.E.S.). He gained professional experience through an internship with the Merrimack Valley Sandbox, an initiative to foster entrepreneurship and leadership in the region, and he has worked part-time at the Northern Massachusetts Telephone Workers Community Credit Union for the past four years.
The “29 Who Shine” award is not his first time in the spotlight. In October, he was one of two students chosen to ask a question at the nationally televised U.S. Senate debate between then-Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren. The experience was thrilling, but nerve-wracking, he says.
“This University gave me the opportunity to be on a national stage,” he says. “It was intense.” He is considering a career that would combine his business and leadership skills with his desire to serve the community. As the first person in his family to attend college, he feels the weight of responsibility to succeed.
“My family is counting on me,” he says.