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He Didn’t Expect to Do Well. Then He Became Valedictorian.

Mario Guzman speaking at Commencement

He had a degree in aerospace engineering, but when Mario Gozum moved to the United States from his native Philippines, he couldn’t find a job in his field and bounced around different positions to pay the bills. Years later, going through some struggles, he felt too far removed to return to aviation, and decided to make a change.   

“I thought, ‘What can I do with my life moving forward? Go back to school,’” he said.  

Gozum watched his friends enjoying their in-demand cybersecurity skills lead to successful careers. He had been building computers early on, so it was easy to speak with the IT people at his company about their work. Gozum came straight to AACC, and said a weekend drive around the campus was what tipped him over the edge. “I thought, ‘Wow this is a real college.’”  

Although the COVID pandemic soon altered his on-campus plans, Gozum said he still received the real college experience. “I felt supported by the professors; they were responsive when I had a question. They always emailed back. ... I loved every single subject I had there.”  

He felt that support in and out of the classroom. The financial aid office worked closely with him to figure out financing. Staff helped him sort out which credits from his previous college would transfer to his new degree. And when his laptop couldn’t keep up with classwork, he used a free loaner from the library.  

Though initially disappointed to be online for classes, Gozum said as a methodical planner he thrived with virtual learning. “Instead of driving to class, I could hit the books, maximizing the time I could use for school,” he said.  An average evening would be homework with his daughter, then finishing his work after his daughter went to bed, often wrapping up around 2 a.m.   

As a single father of three working full time, Gozum took eight terms and three years to complete his program. That made it even sweeter when he graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA and was named one of the valedictorians of the Class of 2022. 

“I was ecstatic,” he said. “I didn’t expect to do very well, but I gave it the college try.”  

Gozum plans to take his degree in information assurance and cybersecurity and transition into a different department at work, all while also pursuing a bachelor's degree in his new field. 

Posted August 2022.