PATERSON, NJ- Being valedictorian of his graduating class has been a twice-in-a-lifetime experience for Alex Medina Sosa. Recently, the Paterson resident learned he has been named a valedictorian of PCCC’s Class of 2018. Six years ago, Alex was valedictorian at his high school graduation in Peru.
“I’m really excited and a little nervous,” said Alex, anticipating the speech he will make at the May 17 evening ceremony of PCCC’s 46th Commencement where he will receive his Associate in Science Degree in Business Administration with highest honors for his 4.0 GPA. He is also the 2018 recipient of the prestigious Robert A. Shea Memorial Graduate Award and the Business Administration Graduate Achievement Award.
Born in Peru, the youngest of three siblings, Alex said he has always “tried to strive for excellence,” and graduated in 2012 from Green Gables High School in Lima, also with a 4.0 GPA.
An elite chess player, Alex represented both his school and his country in the Pan-American Cup 2010-2012. He also played competitive table tennis and participated in his high school music program, experiences that he said “helped build character and taught me how to handle pressure.
Awarded a partial scholarship to study at a local university, Alex chose instead to pursue educational and leadership opportunities outside of Peru. He studied English at the Kaplan School in Australia and later decided to pursue his education in the United States, since he had relatives in both Virginia and New Jersey.
When Alex arrived in Paterson his first encounter with the city was, he said, “a culture shock.”
The need he saw around him in Paterson recalled an important life lesson he had learned back in Peru.
“My family once lived a comfortable life. We had maids, a nice home, social status, everything,” he said. However, when Alex was eight years old, his family faced a crisis, losing nearly everything, due to an unfortunate financial decision on the part of his father, a financial consultant.
“It was at this pivotal point in my life that I first understood the meaning of scarcity and being grateful for what you have,” he explained. Though his family eventually recovered from that setback, Alex said the experience “played a large role in shaping me as a person,” and inspired him to want to help others.
When Alex enrolled at PCCC in January 2016, he was at first uncertain about attending a community college. “I thought I would just get my degree and move on,” he said. But the ambitious student was drawn in by the caring atmosphere he encountered at the College. “I loved the classes and professors,” he said. “I allowed myself to have a full PCCC experience.”
One of the most enriching parts of that experience was the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. “PTK has been life-changing for me,” said Alex “I found a place where I can be with other people who are aspiring. Because of PTK, I pushed myself more.”
Alex participated in numerous community service projects with PTK and held office twice, as both treasurer and vice-president. “The leadership opportunities I had at PCCC were amazing,” he said.
He calls the PTK faculty advisor, Professor Jennifer Gasparino “American mom,” saying, “I couldn’t have done this without her. She’s there when I need encouragement and when I need a push. I am so grateful to her.”
For “man advice,” Alex turned to Professor James Sanders. “I was shy here,” he explained. “I was afraid of sounding dumb, but Professor Sanders encouraged me to do more public speaking and go after leadership opportunities.”
Alex plans to enter Seton Hall University in the Fall where he will major in business and minor in economics. His career plans evolved from his family’s experience with financial devastation.
“My goal is to return to Peru one day and establish a non-profit organization that will offer financial guidance to families and entrepreneurs as well as teach financial literacy to students at an early age,” explained Alex.
Passing on the knowledge and support he has gained is important to Alex. On a recent afternoon in the Paterson campus library, Alex was sitting at a table when Miguel De Jesus, Jr. (’16) approached him.
A former president of PTK/Alpha Eta Chi and now president of PCCC’s Alumni Association, Miguel has been a mentor to many PCCC students, having overcome numerous obstacles to obtaining his own degree, along with numerous academic and leadership awards.
Handing Alex a book “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be,” by Paul Arden, Miguel said, “That book was given to me when I was about to graduate, and now I want you to have it.”
Deeply touched, Alex thanked Miguel and said to a visitor who had witnessed the whole scene. “This is so important to me. Someday, I will pass it on, too.”