Hector Castillo, a Guttman sophomore, has won the prestigious Kaplan Educational Foundation scholarship that helps high-potential associate-degree students complete their bachelor’s degrees. Hector is the first-ever Kaplan Scholar from Guttman Community Colleges since the program’s inception, and is part of a cohort of seven CUNY community college students chosen this year. He is an active member of the Guttman community, serving as Vice President of the Student Government Association 2017-2018 and a Peer Leader in the United Men of Color (UMOC) program on campus.
The high achievers who are chosen as Kaplan Scholars receive financial, academic, advisement and college admissions support in preparing them to transfer to selective four-year colleges. Hector says that thanks to Kaplan, he’s setting his bar high and is exploring Stanford, Brown and Berkley as options.
Hector applied for the scholarship knowing that he couldn’t miss the opportunity to better himself. “I feel like where I come from, we miss out on the opportunities we have, and the only way to succeed is to take advantage of those opportunities.” He’s a true believer in the mantra, “You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”
As a business administration student, Hector knows that Kaplan will have a great impact on his business career. He explained that the fact that “they allow you to travel, they take you to different schools around the country, they provide financial help, academic support when it comes to math and reading” are all factors that will contribute to his success in the major.
A student leader with a 3.8 GPA, Hector has come a long way since emigrating from the Dominican Republic twelve years ago, and his ambitions don’t end with a degree from Brown or Stanford. After completing an MBA in finance or entrepreneurship, Hector said he’d like to start a foundation that will help minorities gain access to better food choices. “I want to make places like Whole Foods more accessible to people,” he said. Opening a business that gives back to the community, similar to Toms Shoes, is also on his list.
One more of Hector’s ambitions is heavily influenced by his experience at Guttman. He said that he’d like to start an advocacy program similar to UMOC, which he said has been one of his favorite aspects of the College. He said that the mentorship offered by people like Dr. Marcus Allen and Andrew Bennett, Assistant Director of Mentoring, helps students stay on the right path. He credits Andrew with alerting him to the Kaplan opportunity. “If I didn’t have somebody that knew me and knew what my ambitions were, they would have never recommended me for such a thing, and that was the first step towards the scholarship,” Hector said.
Another Guttman experience that made Hector realize there are countless opportunities to seize outside of your comfort zone was his trip to Chile through the Global Guttman program this summer. Global Guttman “opened up my point of view, my perspective about business, because I felt like business was something that was essential to New York, but once I went to Chile I saw how essential it was everywhere else, just like it is in any other country. I saw how rich Chile’s economy was when we went to visit these different businesses and it opened up my point of view towards business. It made me break my fear that I would have to stay in New York, because I’ve never experienced anything else but New York. It made me want to go somewhere else and study and do business in foreign countries,” he said.
Hector’s drive and ambition is evident to his peers and mentors. “Hector is a star,” said Andrew Bennett. He said that he recommended Hector for the Kaplan program because he saw a lot of potential in him from the moment they met at UMOC, and knew Hector had a strong professional and academic foundation to make it happen. “A program like Kaplan would definitely be the extra support that he needed to be able to transfer to a four-year school that he probably wouldn’t even think about applying to, but has the potential to get into,” Bennett said about Hector.
“I always wanted to do bigger and better things and anything that’s going to help me get there, I’m going to go for it,” Hector said. Through the Kaplan Program, Hector’s cohort will meet weekly to work on personal statements, college admissions workshops, leadership luncheons with executives, college visits, tutoring services, and other cultural activities.