Editor’s Note — This is part of a weekly student conversation series highlighted as part of Hispanic Heritage Month on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Medium page. The series will feature students who are making impacts on campus and beyond.
Juan Cervantes, a pre-dental hygiene major from Lincoln, has immersed himself in all college has to offer, from studying abroad to finding an internship to serving on the executive board of a student organization.
What drew you to your major and is there anything in particular you’d like to do with it post-grad?
Among several components, one factor that drew me to pursue dental hygiene was my undeniable curiosity for science. Following the completion of my middle school biology course, I realized that science is actually interesting, so to be able to find a career that fits that interest was important to me. Furthermore, I also wanted a career that would allow me to spend time doing other things I love, such as spending quality time with my family, exploring new places and running. Following graduation, I would first like to begin working in the field in order to gain some work experience and take a break from school. In the future, I would like to further my education and get a DDS degree to begin practicing as a dentist, but only time will tell.
How has your job allowed you to grow in your major?
I have worked at Bryan Health as a patient care technician for the past two and a half years, and although it has not always been a smooth ride, this experience has provided me with a lot of opportunities to grow as a scholar, but more importantly as a person. For those that can relate, working in healthcare means that you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, so working in an environment that requires me to step out of my comfort zone also comes with learning how to think critically and how to adapt to different situations. What I have loved most about working in a hospital is the amount of interaction time I get to have with different patients. I feel like this aspect of my job has allowed me to pop out of my shell and feel comfortable whenever I am working with new people.
Talk about being a Gilman Scholar. Why did you want to apply for the program?
Being a Gilman Scholar has been one of the most rewarding experiences during my time in college. I initially applied to this program in hopes of earning extra funding to conduct research abroad and thanks to scholarships such as the Gilman, I was able to spend an entire month studying the growth and development of rural children in Zambia.
During my time there, we conducted anthropometric and dental assessments in schools, as well as looked at the different types of resources available to the families in the area. Aside from the research, we got to spend several days touring South Luangwa National Park and seeing all of the natural wildlife. Along with the great food and amazing hospitality, one of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to experience Victoria Falls and making lifelong memories with a great group of UNL students.
How has being involved in MASA impacted your college experience?
MASA has impacted my college experience in several ways. For starters, I’ve met some great people and created supportive friendships through the organization. As young students, it can sometimes be hard to find a group of people with whom you can connect, but I feel like MASA has become my group of people. Moreover, MASA has also given me the opportunity to be a leader. Given that this is my second year on the executive board, I’ve had time to practice critical thinking, time management and taking initiative, all the while having the support of my fellow MASA members.
With that being said, in terms of the impact I hope to leave on MASA, our executive team is working hard to get involved with the larger community of Lincoln. Through engagement activities, we hope to build relations and create a strong support system for young Latino(a) students in Nebraska.
Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned while in college is that no matter what we’ve accomplished yesterday, it’s never enough. In terms of what I hope to accomplish, I just hope I can live every day striving to be a better person than I was yesterday, and also run Badwater 135.
What or who inspires you?
My biggest inspiration is my parents. Both of my parents emigrated from Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico when they were 18 and 19 to start a new life in the United States in order to give me and my siblings the opportunities that they never had. To see all of the hard work that they put forth day in and day out only inspires me to keep working.
What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact on campus?
The only advice I have is this: you can never go wrong doing something you love. Making an impact on campus will only be a byproduct of you following your passion, so stay true to yourself more than anything. As I like to say, do what you love and you will love what you do.