Student Spotlight: Gustavo Contreras
Gustavo Contreras’ passion for math and science goes as far back as he can remember, influenced in part by his father, a chemical engineer.
But when he didn’t qualify for financial aid during his senior year in high school, Contreras wasn’t sure if he could afford going to college. He knew about College of DuPage from his older sister, who enrolled when she also couldn’t receive federal funds.
Then he was named a Presidential Scholar, an honor that includes a full-tuition scholarship and enrollment in COD's Honors program and the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society.
“Luckily, being selected as a Presidential Scholar allowed me to get a high-quality education at a more than reasonable cost,” he said. “There’s no telling how differently things would’ve gone for me had it not been for COD giving me this great opportunity.”
Contreras found COD to be a challenging but immensely rewarding academic adventure.
“Being mentored by knowledgeable and experienced professors while studying alongside some of the brightest students I’ve come across allowed me to expand my understanding of the scientific world in a way I didn’t envision before. Also, the diversity of the student body provided me with a glimpse of what awaits me when I leave the collegiate lifestyle.”
Born and raised in Guatemala, Contreras earned his Associate in Engineering Science degree and is at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, just like his father did. In 2018, he was an In-Market Operations intern for Frito-Lay in Minneapolis and then participated in the National Intern Report Outs for the company in Dallas.
He also befriended a group of COD transfer students at UIUC, and they formed an intramural soccer team called COD State.
After graduation, Contreras would like to work in the pharmaceutical industry but is leaving his options open. He is proud of his time at College of DuPage and wants people to ignore the stigma associated with attending community colleges.
“COD is great in many regards: if you’re uncertain about your future, if you wish to improve upon the work you did in high school, and if you want something affordable,” he said. “But it’s also a great financial institution full of amazing professors and a myriad of opportunities and benefits easily available to anyone willing to take advantage of them.”
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