A Q&A With Former Promise Scholar, Julian Lugo

Julian Lugo smiles at the cameraJulian Lugo is a former Holland/Zeeland Promise Scholarship program scholar and graduate of Hope College. He was recently promoted to Director of Programs at Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP)! We sat down with Julian for a brief update on life since graduation, his role at LAUP, and the Promise’s impact on his life.

How would you describe the impact of the Promise program on your educational journey and in your life?

The Promise Scholarship forever changed the trajectory of my life because of the investment into my education. First and foremost, the Community Foundation valued my story, supported my hard work, and saw potential for my future educational and career goals. They empowered me to pursue the major of my choice while providing me with the necessary wrap-around services, advocacy, and support I needed to get to college and through college. Three years later, as a Hope College Alum with my Bachelor’s Degree (B.A.), I have no student debt and serve as the Director of Programs at Latin Americans United for Progress where I get to invest back into the community that invested in me.

Is there a particular experience or memory from your time as a Promise scholar you would like to share?

When I had a rough period of time with my mental health during college, CFHZ stepped in to offer support right away. As part of the Promise Scholarship’s side-by-side services, Stacy Timmerman (Director of Scholarships) connected me to the Mosaic Counseling team where I immediately started confidential, inclusive, and safe counseling services from the leisure of my residential hall at Hope College.

After graduation, you chose to return to the Holland/Zeeland area. Tell us more about why you made that choice.

I initially moved to Texas because I felt that was my best option at the time. LAUP reached out to me and strongly encouraged me to apply for their open, full-time Programs Manager position with the organization. The position aligned with my skill set, passions, and values. After two successful interviews, Johnny Rodriguez and the Executive Board of Directors were eager to bring me onto staff and have me lead LAUP programs.

Can you share a little about your role at LAUP – how you found out about the opportunity, what drew you to the organization, what you enjoy about your work there?

The President/CEO of LAUP, Johnny Rodriguez, reached out to me to apply for the position. What drew me most to the organization was that Johnny and other folks on the LAUP team already knew who I was. They saw me as an emerging leader, they knew I had a specific skill set, and they wanted to invest into that. I love LAUP’s mission which is, “Empowering Latinos to participate in creating a better community for all through advocacy, education, and celebration.”

What I enjoy most about my role here is that I get to create, manage, and support programming that directly impacts and mobilizes the trajectory of my adult and youth participant’s lives. If one of my Adelante! or Más Adelante! Youth tell me that they want to go to college, we help them fill out their three minimum college applications we require for the 12th grade Mas Adelante! Program and assist them in completing their FAFSA applications. If one of my adult participants tell me that they wish to participate in democracy and exercise civil rights designated for the U.S. Citizens, but they don’t currently have U.S. Citizenship, I get to enroll them into our 10-week Citizenship Program in partnership with Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates where we walk them through both the educational and legal sides to gain their courthouse hearing, and ultimately, pass their U.S. Citizenship test and become naturalized citizens. That’s amazing to me!

Any words of wisdom for current Promise scholars?

I would like to encourage current and future Promise scholars to remember that everything that’s meant for them, will not pass them. I want Promise scholars to know that everything is going to work out the way that it’s supposed to work out for them, and that they’re going to be okay. Their paths will not be linear and it will be a bumpy road with many obstacles, tests, and adversity, but they have all of the gifts, grit, and talent to overcome it all and succeed.