Current Board of Trustees: (from left) Sofia Vignolo, Luis Fuste (Chair), Wendy Grant, Juan Carlos Infante. Not pictured: Juan Garcia, Dr. Robert Abello, and Lourdes Balepogi.
The Board of Trustees welcomed a new—but familiar—face to its ranks at its December meeting in Juan Carlos Infante, Doral College Class of 2015. Infante is also an alumnus of Doral Academy Charter High School, where he graduated at the top of his class. He currently attends Harvard University where he is studying molecular biology. We caught up with him after the board meeting to chat about his new position, his interests, and life at one of the nation’s most prestigious schools.
After completing his undergraduate degree, Infante plans to attend medical school and specialize in neurosurgery. He is most interested in making advances in spinal cord injuries—an interest in his life since his mother was injured in a serious car accident in Colombia when he was only eight years old. Though she has since rehabilitated, she spent a year in the hospital with her family by her side. This time left an impression on Infante, who felt the experience uncovered for him a deeper purpose. “I’ve just always felt like this is something I am meant to do,” he said.
Regarding his election to the Doral College Board of Trustees, Infante says he is honored to be part of an organization that gave him so much. He explains that in his time at Harvard, he has met many people from far more privileged backgrounds than his own. In speaking of both the College and his high school, he said, “I got a free education here and am standing beside people who paid $40,000 a year for theirs…I want to give back and help the college continue to give students that kind of opportunity.”
Infante has nothing but praise for the environment at Harvard. He has encountered amazing people, including a classmate who immigrated from Somalia and an Ethics professor who specializes in the ethics of anatomy in Nazi Germany. He credits both Doral College and Doral Academy for providing him with a strong academic foundation and said he was surprised by how well-prepared he felt in the classroom. Though he says his second year has been more challenging, he is especially grateful to College Instructor Ryan Kairalla and his science and English teachers at both schools for preparing him for success.
In what spare time he has outside the classroom, Infante keeps himself busy. He has served as the Campus Editor for Change Magazine, a nationwide college publication, and also spoke fondly of another project in which he is involved—Harvard College Stories for Orphans. Founded in 2008, this organization connects its undergraduates with orphans around the world, including locations in South Africa, South Korea, China, and Ukraine. Each year, the group pairs with an orphanage, and its members write, illustrate, and publish a personalized book for each child in the selected home. This past year, Infante served as Outreach Director. He was happy to assist a great deal with translating, as the project most recently partnered with an orphanage in Peru, where Spanish, his first language, is most prevalent.
During vacation breaks and summers, Infante continues to work toward a career treating spinal cord injuries through involvement with the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. He is interested in the work being done there with electrical stimulation and the nervous system, as well as the approaches he studies at Harvard related to regenerative medicine and stem cell research.
When asked if he has any advice for future Doral College graduates, Infante had some practical advice. If going away to school, purchase any items you will need beforehand so that you are not rushing for essentials at the last minute, he said, which can be both stressful and costly. Also, don’t be afraid to contact your financial aid representative if you have questions. “Our generation is used to looking for everything online,” he said. “But sometimes it is better to talk to someone directly.” Lastly, he said, “Appreciate your time here—you will miss it.”
Certainly, we miss him as well, but are honored he has chosen to join us as a Board member. Infante is the second alumnus to serve on the Board of Trustees. Sofia Vignolo, a member of the College’s first graduating class, was elected in December of 2014. Vignolo currently attends the University of Miami.
Want to support Harvard Stories for Orphans? Check out their site: https://harvardstoriesfororphans.wordpress.com/
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