CLASS OF 2014
Spotlight on our Graduates
PCCC Valedictorian Eyes a Medical Career
When Juan Leiva learned that he would be a valedictorian in PCCC’s Class of 2014, he was in the middle of feeding his baby daughter. “I was surprised and honored to be selected,” said the Paterson resident who will graduate with a perfect 4.0 average.”
Though he confesses to being “a little nervous” about delivering the speech, he is calmed by the support of his family. “They are all happy and proud,” he said.
In fact, his brother Michael is majoring in business at PCCC and told Juan he hopes to “carry on the tradition” when he graduates.
A member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and recipient of the Science Award,Juan will receive his Associate in Science Degree with a concentration in Pre-professional Scientific, a very challenging major that makes his perfect GPA all the more noteworthy.
“Those classes are very hard,” he said. “Sometimes we would start a class with 25 students, but end up with only about 12.”
Juan chose the major, because he hopes to pursue a career as a cardiologist. “First, I thought to become a nurse, because I enjoy helping people,” he said.
But when an uncle developed a cardiac condition, Juan was fascinated by talking with the doctors and “learning more about how the body works. “
A native of Peru, Juan was in his fourth year of a seven-year medical school program, when he came to the U.S. in 2003, speaking little English. He found a job with UPS and with a valet parking company, but knew he would need to do better.
“It’s very hard to raise a family here,” said the father of a three-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter. “You need more money to give them the best.”
He enrolled in PCCC in 2012, and though he worked and had a challenging course load, Juan managed to become involved in college life.
An advocate of a balanced life, Juan also became involved in college activities. He was a member of the math club and science club, participated in research with the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) department, and even volunteered as a tutor for the science department.
“The support of my family made it possible for me to attend college and be very involved,” said Juan whose wife, Elizabeth, also received a degree in business administration this month from FDU.
He considers an organic chemistry course with Dr. Linda Chang to be his favorite and praises both Professor Chang and (science) professor Dr. Kala Mayur for “always supporting and advising me.”
The man who came to the U.S. knowing little of the language also enjoyed his English composition class. “I write better than I speak,” he joked, a comment about his accented English.
Juan plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Fairleigh Dickinson University where he received a full scholarship.
Scheduled to speak at the evening commencement ceremony, Juan said his speech will be “a reflection on the years he has been at PCCC and advice to the graduates to continue pursuing their goals.
What is the secret of his success? “Dedication,” said Juan. “I dedicated a lot of time to my studies.”
He expressed gratitude to President Rose and Vice President (Jacqueline) Kineavy for “the great moments I had here.”
To others who may be in the process of choosing a college, Juan recommends PCCC. “It’s affordable with excellent classes and professors.”