José L. Lara
Hometown: Boston, MA
"I like the fact that here I'm not just another student. I feel like I'm known and cared for here."
Tell us about your transfer experience.
This is my first year at UMass Dartmouth. I took a year off after high school and then began at community college. One day I just woke up and decided that I needed more of a challenge and a wider horizon. I began to look at UMass Dartmouth and registered for one of the On the Spot days for transfer applicants. I didn’t know what to expect, but right from that first meeting with [transfer counselor] Darcy Stevens, I could tell that UMass Dartmouth was ready for me, and I was ready for UMass Dartmouth.
Describe a valuable experience you've had here at UMass Dartmouth.
I'm already part of the executive board for the Cape Verde Student Association (CVSA), and have become its events coordinator. Through CVSA, I also coordinate a community service program named People Helping People—a program to help young teens in middle school and high school in our area communities.
We believe that young students need support, especially when these students come from troubled homes or are having trouble staying focused in school. 2010-2011 was the first successful year of the program. Our mentors have helped and encouraged these students by helping with homework, studying skills, support, and motivation. People Helping People has helped me to understand the importance of my obtaining my degree. I have to set a great example for younger kids in our community. We need to help other students remember that education is the key that will open doors to opportunities.
How has coordinating the People Helping People program made a difference for you?
People Helping People has changed my perception of why I came to school. I came to school to become financially prepared for my future—I believe school will get me the American dream. School will do that for me, but in the meantime I want to give back to my community and share my experience and education with others. That's what the American dream is all about.
Also, because of my involvement with People Helping People, I’ll be traveling to Cape Verde this summer to work both in an orphanage and with troubled teens. The group I’m going with will distribute needed school supplies—and we’ll also be encouraging the young people to see education as the pathway to improve their lives.
What makes UMass Dartmouth special?
What makes UMass Dartmouth so special is the small campus that we have. I've been to other schools and noticed that big schools are hard to grow in. I like the fact that here I'm not just another student. I feel like I'm known and cared for here. In time of need or just for support, I have people here to talk to. People who remember me by name, not just by face.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
My advice is to be open-minded and say yes to new opportunities. You’re never going to expand your horizon if you don't take chances. Use your time here at UMass Dartmouth wisely. Make your time here count. By saying yes and motivating myself, I’ve encountered great experiences and achieved goals—just by taking one good positive step.