Student-athlete challenges odds and graduates – The Gothic Times


Vasquez-Villalta at the Skyline Conference which the NJCU men’s volleyball team won. Photo courtesy of Vazquez-Villalta.

Jerlis Vasquez-Villalta immigrated from Morazan, El Salvador, America with his family when he was 8 years old. They came to America hoping to improve their lives and achieve their financial goals. Despite many setbacks, he played volleyball throughout his four years with the NJCU and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Moving to a new country was difficult, one of the hardest parts was learning the English language. Being a native Spanish speaker, it was difficult for her to pronounce certain English words.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy, enacted in June 2012, has helped it adjust in many ways. This gave her the opportunity to start working and to help her family cope with financial needs.

DACA was also a prime factor in his goal of obtaining a driver’s license which allowed him to travel with friends like any other young adult, as well as other services to lead a normal life.

During his freshman year at Memorial High School, located in West New York, New Jersey, Vasquez-Villalta started playing volleyball. He had to learn the sport quickly to get the chance to be part of the team as he had never played the sport before.

Fortunately, he had motivational coaches who have helped him over the years. His passion and dedication to volleyball grew helping him lose weight and keep him in shape.

Fast forward to his final year of high school, his coach Jorge Rodriguez gave him advice on joining the NJCU men’s volleyball team. Rodriguez’s recommendation was factored into his decision to choose the college he decided to attend.

Vasquez-Villalta. Photo courtesy of NJCU
Athletics.

He eventually chose NJCU, where he was offered a college scholarship. When college began, Vasquez-Villalta was able to pay out of his own pocket the remaining balance that his scholarship did not cover while working.

As a student athlete it was his responsibility to devote himself to both balancing athletics and academics. He used the Student Outreach and Retention Office (SOAR) where he was offered help moving from high school to college.

Vasquez-Villalta said: “If they hadn’t advised me, I wouldn’t have graduated from NJCU. Veronica Garcia and the staff at SOAR helped me find my passion and gave me the tools to be successful at NJCU. Going from a 1.5 GPA in first grade to a 3.3 in final grade was one of my greatest accomplishments in life, and I couldn’t have done it without them.

Vasquez-Villalta liked to be part of a diverse environment. The NJCU athletic program was recently honored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for its work on projects related to diversity in programming and initiatives taking place on Division III campuses and in conference offices. . He said: “Being part of a diverse team has helped me prepare for the real world because we live in a world where people come from different backgrounds, cultures, religions and preferences, learning to adapt to the real world. diverse group of men that I spent four years with prepared me for what happens to me in the real world.

In the future, Vasquez-Villalta hopes to work in the financial sector. He wants people to know that whether he’s been on a plane or crossing the border, he’s a proud immigrant from the United States and he can’t wait to break down more barriers as a minority in the country.


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