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NOVA Student's Transformation From Feeling Uncertain to Becoming Unstoppable

NOVA Student's Transformation From Feeling Uncertain to Becoming Unstoppable

Meet NOVA student Dylan Salgado! His journey has been one of constant moving and upheaval. For him, it wasn’t just about moving to different states but different countries. 

During the COVID lockdown, he moved to Northern Virginia from Florida. But Dylan did not like Virginia and was feeling pessimistic about life. Plus, he missed the beach and his friends back in Miami. But his dad said to him, “I know you don’t like it, but you are going to be fine.” Dylan’s father could not have been more right! 

Dylan had started enjoying life, branching out and finding his calling when, in 2022, his father said it was time for them to pack up and move to Texas. But Dylan felt alive and part of something and did not want to move. “No, there’s no way I’m doing that. I am staying here,” he told his father. 

Recently, Dylan learned that he was a semifinalist for this year’s Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship. Dylan was almost speechless. “I was not saying anything, but I was screaming,” he recalls. “I was so happy.” 

This prestigious award supports high-achieving community college students with demonstrated financial need who are seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at selective four-year institutions. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your background: 
“I’m so proud of my dad. I owe everything that I have to him and my mom. So, this victory of me being a semifinalist for a Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is a victory for my parents!” 

I am a proud NOVA student from the Manassas Campus. I started in the fall of 2021 after being in Virginia for a year. Prior to becoming a student, I spent a year working as a meat clerk at Harris Teeter, saving up some money for college, and here I am about to graduate in May!” 

I moved four times in my life. I was born and raised in Nicaragua. At 15, I moved to El Salvador where I lived from 2016 to 2018. After my dad lost his job in 2018, we moved to Florida, but that’s when COVID happened. My family and I moved to Virginia. Thankfully, I had already graduated from high school in Miami. 

We were in Virginia for three months when my dad was again unemployed. My dad has been so gracious and he’s hard-working. He texted me that he got another great job, but it was in Texas, and there was no way I was moving a fourth time. 

I told him I had been planning so many things ahead of time. That’s when my dad said, “You can stay here, but you’re going to work hard, and you’re going to do your homework.” To me, it sounded like a fair deal. 

I told my dad, “I want a stable future, and I think it’s here. That’s why I really want to stay at NOVA. It’s a good area, particularly for government-related careers.” I interned for the Fairfax County Democratic Committee in the summer of 2022, where I helped them organize their voter contact database. Later that same summer, I interned for a candidate from Florida who was running for Congress. “I’m currently working on internship applications. So, stay tuned!” 

What brought you to NOVA? 
What brought me to NOVA was my interest in obtaining my associate degree in order to transfer to a four-year institution. Also, NOVA provided me with connections, everlasting connections, that turned into friendships, and that’s what I was looking forward to doing in college. I was looking to network, meet people and get my degree. 

What are you studying at NOVA? 
I’m majoring in social sciences and I’m in the Mason Advance program. My career goals are to work in government jobs with nonprofits that work in reproductive freedom, education or work to improve our infrastructure nationwide. 

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA, i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met.  
NOVA offered me everything I needed, from friends to amazing educators! NOVA’s amazing, with its great faculty and staff. My counselors, oh, my counselors! They’re in Manassas. Shout out to Dr. McCants, Ms. Campbell, Ms. Marielle Brown and Ms. Oviedo. I love them so much; they’re the best! 

Dr. Michelle Buehlmann, my political science teacher, taught me everything she knew. I had her for U.S government, international relations and for comparative politics. I’m grateful to her for being a reference for my internship at the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. She is so sweet, loving, caring and human. Not to be biased, but NOVA is lucky to have her! A very smart and compassionate educator!” 

Regarding my involvement at NOVA, I’ve had the opportunity to be everywhere! I’ve been in student government since the fall of 2021. I served as an SGA senator, then as a secretary and now I am the vice president. I also have been working as a Student Life Ambassador here at the Manassas Campus. 

Also, I’m serving as the president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at my campus and the vice chair for the Student Government Advisory Council. Finally, I am the president of the College Democrats at NOVA. It’s also known as the NVCC Democrats and had been inactive since 2018. The goal of this club is to have students involved in progressive politics, so I was happy to gather students from every campus to ensure civic engagement on all of NOVA’s campuses. 

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA? 
I would tell students to go to campus and search where their classes are one week before starting. Don’t be like me; I got lost in the first week. Know who your professors are, read their syllabus and get your textbooks and you’re ready to go.  

Finally, I would tell students to get involved on your campus, and know what’s happening with your student government and your local elected officials. You have a voice. You’re paying for school. Use your voice. You can get involved in many ways, from opening a club like I did with the College Democrats, to working as a Student Life Ambassador. It’s been an enriching journey. 

Run to be part of the student government or even be part of your campus forum. It’s important. There are so many exciting conversations concerning campus as well as decisions, and student input is something that does matter to the NOVA administration. I’ve seen it all. 

Where do you see yourself after NOVA, or what career pursuits are you exploring? 
I am graduating this semester. I am in the Mason Advance program in the bachelor’s degree program for government and international relations. With Advance, it’s a very smooth transition. The moment I graduate, boom, I’m already a student at Mason.  

But I am waiting on college applications to see where I land. I recently got my acceptance letter from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and I’m still waiting for the other ones. George Washington University is one of the schools I’ve applied to recently. 

Another thing I want to pursue is a master’s degree in public policy. Recently, I’ve developed an interest in law, particularly constitutional law. I’ve been listening to a lot of Supreme Court arguments, and it’s been interesting to listen to those dialogues. 

I have basically planned what I want to do in life, whether that’s in government, a courtroom or politics. 

Finally, “I’m grateful for my parents. I owe them everything. I love you both!” 

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls nearly 80,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.eduor call 703.323.3000.