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June 9, 2021

Valentin Lucero will be the first to tell you that his journey to earning a college degree was a long one. As an adult, Valentin worked at a printing company in Chicago. By chance, he met an art instructor from the College of DuPage who encouraged Valentin to start his education.

Valentin recalls, “An instructor [from the College of DuPage] was bringing students to my place of work, which was a printing ink and manufacturing facility. I started doing seminars for them, for the class, to help out the students. I got interested in [attending the college] and the instructor pretty much kind of pushed me to go back. He said that it will help me, and it did.”

Valentin earned a certificate in graphic arts; however, he wasn’t able to continue to his bachelor’s degree. “I got relocated [for work] to El Paso, Texas, so I didn't pursue [my Bachelor's degree] because I left. [The instructor] was my guide pushing me to go back to school. So I kind of lost that. I didn't pursue anything for a few years until I got to San Antonio.”

The move to San Antonio turned out to be the right one: it’s where he enrolled at St. Philip’s College.  

Although he had no previous experience with online learning, Valentin quickly recognized the benefits. “When I started looking at the classes that I wanted to take, I saw that there were quite a few offers online, so I thought that [online] was probably easier for me since I was working.”

Online courses at St. Philip's College helped Valentin become more comfortable with technology. In fact, learning about new technology has become one of his biggest takeaways. 

“I knew nothing when I first started,” he admits. “With online courses, it was a totally different experience than an in-person class. I’m actually still learning a lot about technology and all the wonderful things that you can do on a computer such as Zoom.”

Valentin enjoys gleaning knowledge from his online instructors and then diving deeper into the course topics by doing his own additional research. In this way, Valentin expands on what he learns in class either by using additional instructor-provided resources or conducting independent research online.

Despite being a non-traditional student, Valentin felt ready to take on his goal of becoming a deacon. Not only is he in the process of earning a Humanities degree from St. Philip's College, but he is also attending the Mexican American Catholic College as well as the Oblate School of Theology.

Unlike other career paths, deaconship does not provide a traditional salary. When asked why he selected this path, Valentin answers, “It’s to help the people. [...] The deacon helps people through difficult times when somebody dies, the deacon helps people when children are born and they want to baptize them, when people want to get married and all that.” He adds, “So I think it is a calling, and it is a calling that we get precisely for that reason--to give yourself up and put yourself in a place where you are the conduit to helping others. And that's why it is a calling because that's not an easy thing to do.”

Although the journey has been challenging at times, the struggles have been worth it. Not only is Valentin well prepared to succeed in our tech-savvy world, but he is also eager to remain a lifelong student. “...I know that I have always liked school, so it's pretty easy for me—even at this age, it’s probably why I'm doing what I'm doing, because I have always liked education. Even though I [attended college] in intervals [...] I have never abandoned it fully, I've always tried to [attend] in some capacity, to educate myself in some shape or form.”

When asked if he had advice for students like himself, Valentin is quick to reply: “I will say to anyone: don't stop. I think I will be a prime example that education never ends. I’m not the oldest, I had an instructor at the Mexican American Catholic College who is 75 years old and only three years ago she acquired a doctoral degree. [...] She is my hero. She's been my inspiration for the last three years that I've known her. Because if she got a doctorate degree at 72, maybe I could get one a little sooner.”

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