On a recent afternoon, Buffalo State senior Hector Rosario proudly glanced around a computer lab in the college’s Technology Building.
The Computer Information Systems (CIS) major and creative studies minor is more than adept at using the computers in the room—after all, he installed them. In fall 2015, Rosario landed an on-campus job as a computer technician.
“In this job,” he said, “I’ve learned new coding languages, how to create spreadsheets, and how to install and update computers.”
Poised to graduate in December 2017, Rosario exudes positivity and hope. He talks of his dreams of designing his own app someday. However, his cheerful attitude doesn’t stem from an easy life.
His father died when Rosario was just three years old and his family was living in the Dominican Republic. When Rosario was 11, his mother moved the family to the Bronx, New York, in hopes of a better life.
“I struggled growing up. I used to be called different names in middle school, but the name-calling only bothered me sometimes,” he said. “The neighborhood also wasn’t the greatest. There were people selling drugs, gang affiliations, and many fights after school.”
Several of his peers and some of his siblings didn’t complete high school. However, Rosario knew from a young age he wanted to work with computers. He also wanted the kind of life only a college education allows. While attending the Borough of Manhattan Community College, he taught himself the basics of programming by watching YouTube videos. A co-worker told him about Buffalo State, inspiring Rosario to research the school and visit its campus.
“I came to an open house and fell in love,” Rosario said with an easy smile. “Transferring here is one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far.”
He secured a scholarship through the state Tuition Assistance Program, enrolled for spring 2014, and moved into Cassety Hall. He admits to losing his way in the beginning.
“I started slacking off, hanging out with friends, and my grades dropped,” Rosario explained. “I got the wake-up call when I lost my scholarship. I decided to focus on increasing my GPA.”
It paid off. By winter 2015, Rosario was able to get his scholarship reinstated and is now on the Dean’s List. He attributes his success not only to improved study habits but also to involvement in United Students Government (USG) and Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity.
“You have limited time to get everything accomplished when you have more on your plate,” he said, “so you work harder and pay more attention.”
Both organizations introduced him to community service, which has transformed his worldview.
“A few weeks ago, I saw a homeless person on the street. I gave him some money and bought him some food,” he said. “I felt so happy knowing that I had impacted that individual’s life.”
He’s aiming to complete the college’s 200-hours community service certificate by the time he graduates. Afterward, he wants to join AmeriCorps to continue helping people.
Campus involvement also has developed Rosario’s leadership skills. He’s given advice to first-year and transfer students.
“I tell students that they’ll be exposed to the real world soon, so they might as well take advantage of everything the campus has to offer,” he said. “Even a 4.0 GPA doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get a job. If you have a 3.0 but are focused on getting involved in a positive way and demonstrating that you’re a great leader, I think that’s better preparation.”
As for his own future, Rosario is applying strategies he has honed in his creative studies classes to flesh out a multitude of technology-related ideas.
“I have a lot of things I want to accomplish,” he said. “I want to be successful for my family, especially my mom. I want to make her proud.”
He emphasized that success does not necessarily mean a big paycheck.
“You can have millions and be miserable. Whether or not I make a lot of money, I know I am going to be happy.”