January 01, 2017

When Mexican-American Century College student Lucino Sosa first immigrated to the United States at age 15, his greatest difficulty was overcoming the language barrier.

This challenge, however daunting, pales in comparison to the financial and personal challenges he would face in the United States.

A college education once seemed unattainable. But with the help of the Multicultural Center and supportive instructors at Century College, Sosa is now well on his way to a degree in Marketing.

“Two things come to mind when I think about Lucino as a student,” said Melissa Borman, an Art faculty member at Century College. “One is how brave he is in addressing tough, important issues. The second is his tenacity. He will not give up when something gets difficult.”

Fighting Through Adversity

Life was hard for Sosa in Mexico. Working for 25 cents per hour at a computer rental business, Sosa made approximately 20 pesos for an eight-hour shift – less than the price of a loaf of bread.

Sosa left Mexico to join his grandfather in Minnesota. He thought his life would be better, and that he’d be able to support his family back home. But his challenges were far from over.

After his grandfather returned to Mexico two years later, Sosa found himself alone, paying for himself and eight siblings back home with the money he made working at McDonald’s.

The financial burden was great. But Sosa dreamed of going to college, and was determined to get there anyway he could.

Though Sosa’s grades in high school were excellent, he couldn’t afford tuition and wasn’t eligible for financial aid. Consequently, representatives from many schools told him to reconsider his intention to attend college.

“It was very discouraging,” said Sosa. “After hearing from my teachers back in high school saying, ‘you can be anything in life,’ I started to believe that wasn’t the case for me.”

When he was losing hope, Sosa’s principal Tim O’Brien from Adult Roseville Center recommended Century College. There, he met with then-Chief Diversity Officer Nickyia Cogshell, and with the help of Latino Student Services Coordinator Yessica Santana, they arranged a payment plan to take one class for his first semester.

With the help of IME Becas Scholarships provided by the Mexican Consulate in Saint Paul and the Century College Foundation, Sosa later became a full-time student at Century College.

Persevering Through Trauma

“I felt a lot of pressure. I was living by myself, paying bills, doing homework, and working eight hour shifts,” said Sosa. “Sometimes I thought, ‘this is too much. I don’t want to do this.’”

Sosa was on the verge of giving up. But his life was about to become even tougher.

During his second semester at Century, Sosa went to the bank to withdraw from his savings for tuition and books. He didn’t realize that he was being watched. As he was walking home, two men approached him from behind and took his money.

After this event, Sosa started working at a gas station. One night, as his shift was about to end, a man pointed a gun to his forehead, asking for money. Though Sosa complied, the man wanted him to open the safe.

When Sosa informed him he didn’t know the code, the man fired. The bullet whizzed past him, just missing his ear. Sosa immediately passed out in shock.

“When that happened, everything went downhill. I was really scared just walking. I had so many panic attacks,” said Sosa. “I couldn’t sleep for a week. Every time I tried to close my eyes I would start sweating, and my heart would start racing.”

On one occasion, when Sosa was crossing the Century College Bridge, he suddenly froze in place, gripped by panic. He started shaking. His mind was telling him to run.

Help from the Multicultural Center

Sosa ran to the Multicultural Center, where African/African-American Student Services Coordinator Trumanue Lindsey, Jr. was about to leave for the day. Even though the center was closed, Lindsey, Jr. stayed to calm him down.

After the incident, Santana connected him with community counselors to help him work through his trauma.

“During my third semester, I had a lot of trouble focusing. Yessica stayed and helped me with my homework,” said Sosa. “I’ll never forget when she told me, ‘I want you to succeed. I know this happened and it’s horrible, but you have to keep going. If you stay home, you’re going to get more depressed. You need to come to school and do the best you can.’”

Sosa had hit a low-point in his life. But with the guidance of Santana and Lindsey, Jr., Sosa did more than push onward – he thrived. At the encouragement of Santana, Sosa joined the Student Senate, The Century Times newspaper, and a student organization called Movimiento Latino – all while maintaining a 3.5 GPA.

“They went above and beyond for me,” said Sosa. “I have a really deep connection with them. Trumanue is like a father figure, and I see Yessica as a guardian angel – she’s always there for me and always helping me out.”

Sosa certainly had great support at Century College during one of the most difficult periods of his life. But for all he’s been through, his success would not be possible without extraordinary strength and resilience.

“There are some students you encounter that you just know are going to change the world – Lucino is one of them,” said Director of Student Life Jennifer Rassett. “I cannot say enough good things about him.”