At a Glance
Major(s): Exercise Science
Activities: Track and Field Team, Student-Athletes of Color Affinity Group
Why exercise science? "I’ve always been passionate about the human body and knew I wanted to work in health care."
Juan Avelino ’22 was excited, but also nervous, after being accepted to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Florida A&M University.
“Academically, the program is a lot harder than anything I’ve ever done,” says Avelino, who earned a B.S. in exercise science from the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences.
But Avelino’s nerves began melting away as his first semester got underway in Tallahassee, Florida.
“I have to give UMass Lowell and my professors the credit they deserve: I’m a lot more prepared for the program than I thought I was,” Avelino says. “When we cover something in class, I’ll think, ‘Ooh, my professor taught me this at UML.’”
Avelino excelled academically (making the dean’s list four times) and athletically at UML, where he was a sprinter and jumper on the Division 1 men’s track and field team.
He was also actively involved in the Lowell community and was chosen by the Athletics Department as UML’s 2022 America East Man of the Year nominee.
“I was very honored and humbled to be considered for the award,” says Avelino, who was born in the Dominican Republic and raised by his mother, Yoselin Martinez, in Lynn, Massachusetts, while his father, Reggie Avelino, served overseas in the U.S. military for two decades.
“We didn’t have much back home in Lynn, but my mom worked very hard. She was very inspirational,” says Avelino, a graduate of Lynn English High School who vowed from an early age to “give back and help as many people as I can.”
“I was lucky to have the ability to run fast and jump high, which gave me a platform to give back,” he says. “Having that privilege is something I can never take for granted.”
In addition to his involvement with pen pal and build-a-bed programs, Avelino co-founded UML’s Student-Athletes of Color Affinity Group (SACAG) with former women’s lacrosse player Kristi King ’21.
“The experiences and stresses are different for students of color, so having a support system, somewhere we can be ourselves and get to know each other, is important,” Avelino says. “I’m so happy with what the group has become, and I can’t wait to see what else comes of it.”
While Avelino’s track career was beset by injuries — a torn quad his freshman year and a broken ankle his senior year — he still managed to finish eighth in the decathlon at the 2022 America East Outdoor Championships.
He now looks forward to helping others overcome injuries as a physical therapist.
“I’ve always been passionate about the human body and knew I wanted to work in health care,” says Avelino, who chose the physical therapy route after working as a clinical aide while in college. “You build a stronger relationship with clients and patients as a physical therapist than you do in a doctor’s office. I wanted something a little more personal.”
As he advances through the three-year doctoral program at Florida A&M, Avelino continues to make his parents proud.
“Everywhere my dad goes,” Avelino says, “he tells people, ‘My son’s going to be a doctor. My son’s going to be a doctor.’”