Moreno is among this month’s graduates from the college. He has a grade point average of 4.0, and he has earned an associate in science degree and a diploma in biotechnology. Achievements in his personal life make his SPARC success even more remarkable.
Since he was a child in the Dominican Republic, Moreno wanted to be a physician. He was inspired by his mother, who is a doctor, and by the medical care and attention that saved his life after he was infected with the dengue fever at the age of 12. This mosquito-borne viral disease, common in the tropics, put him in a coma for several days.
“When I woke up,” he said, “I had tubes in my mouth, hands and feet, and even opening my eyes was a challenge. All I wanted was to see my mother one last time and say ‘goodbye,’ because I thought that I was dying.”
Although many of Moreno’s doctors doubted that he would survive, one doctor, along with Moreno’s mother, kept fighting and tried another treatment that ultimately saved his life. He had to learn to walk and talk again, but he faced those challenges with determination.
When Moreno was 17, his mother and sister moved to America, whilst he stayed in the Dominican Republic to finish high school. He spoke almost no English when he joined them Stateside. He tried to take classes. But the language barrier was daunting, and he dropped out. But his dream of being a physician was still alive.
By 2017, his English had improved sufficiently to allow him to enroll in Gaston College. Moreno persisted, and he thanked the college’s instructors and financial aid office for helping him. The following year, he joined the SPARC program and dug into research projects.
“The SPARC program is something out of this world,” Moreno said. “I believe that the person and student I am and many of the things I have accomplished have been influenced by my participation in the program.”
He singled out chemistry teacher Dr. Virginie Maggiotti for her help.
“I am glad I could help him grow and flourish here at Gaston College and after transfer,” said Maggiotti. “I know he will achieve great things.”
Moreno is now working from home on DNA analysis. He is a semi-finalist for the highly selective and prestigious Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, and he is also a finalist for the Goodnight Scholarship from North Carolina State University. The scholarship results will determine whether Moreno will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or N.C. State to finish his bachelor of science degree, majoring in biology with a minor in psychology. He intends to apply to medical school when he completes his undergraduate studies.
“My ultimate career goal is to help others and be useful,” said Moreno. “The way I want to achieve my goal is not set in stone yet. I know that I have always wanted to be a doctor, but the exact field of medicine I want to pursue in not yet defined. It will depend on what I enjoy the most during medical school. Lately, I have leaned toward being a neurologist, with a specialty in muscular disorders. This is because I have a rare and not well-understood muscular disorder, myotonia congenita, and I think this is a field where I can be useful. And through research, I may be able to discover ways I can treat or even cure those with similar disorders.
“My experiences at Gaston College mean a lot to me,” he added, “because now I truly believe that with good work and the help and support of those who genuinely desire my success, I can accomplish anything. I only hope that one day my teachers and the Gaston College staff can proudly say that I was one of their students and that I can give back the support they gave me.”
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