When he was in middle school, Jose Suriel dreamt of attending the University of Connecticut. The oldest son of four, he was raised in a single-parent household in a neighborhood where the prospect of attending college did not seem attainable for everyone. But with support from the adults in his life, Jose committed himself to making his college dream a reality. His hard work paid off when he was admitted to UConn in 2012 after graduating from Hill Regional Career High School. He describes receiving his acceptance letter as “the biggest day” of his life. Now a rising sophomore majoring in psychology, Jose, while thriving at his dream school, hasn’t lost sight of the people who helped him get there.
Since he was young, Jose has been motivated to achieve excellence primarily by his mother Sheila. Like her son, Sheila also graduated from Career, but already had a newborn Jose to take care of by the time she received her diploma. Despite struggles, she made sure her children understood that higher education was key to their future success. Jose’s grandmother also helped set him on the college path from an early age with constant encouragement to get good grades. When Jose learned about New Haven Promise in 10th grade, he recognized it as an amazing opportunity that would help him make it to college, and he made sure he was on track to meet the program’s requirements.
Growing up, Jose felt that as a young Hispanic man from a single-parent household, some people had lower expectations for his future that did not include higher education. As high school graduation neared, Jose started to question whether he wanted to pursue college. In addition to his family, Jose credits a particular teacher for ultimately helping him decide that going to UConn was the best choice for him. History teacher James Osborne, whom he affectionately calls Socrates on account of his flowing, white beard, provided the firm encouragement. “He took a personal interest in me and was willing to talk to me about anything. He encouraged me to think. He liked to spark a fire in me and get me to the potential he thought I should be at.”
With hard work, Jose earned his Promise scholarship, and he now has completed his first year at his dream school. He enjoys being part of a diverse student body and living on campus. A career in clinical psychology is his ultimate goal and next semester he plans to take courses in abnormal psychology. He even has a great study partner close to home – his mom, who is now also pursuing a college degree in psychology online. The two have helped each other with school papers and psychology principles have become topics of conversation around the house.
Jose recognizes that the supportive adults around him have played a fundamental role in getting him to UConn on the path to success. Long term, Jose seeks provide that same guidance to others and establish himself as a leader by dedicating himself to serving his community. “If it weren’t for relationships I have with certain people, I wouldn’t be where I am now. People gave me opportunities and I want to do the same, he said. “I’ve always felt like a small fish in a big pond. It’s with the help of other fish that I’ve gotten big.”