An Advocate for Access

by Sara De La Rosa | Photo by Paul Bryan

The first in his family to graduate from high school, Fred Fuentes is no stranger to confronting challenges and turning them into opportunities for excellence. When the U.S. Army offered Fuentes a chance to begin his educational dreams while traveling, developing leadership skills and serving his country, he jumped at the chance.

Fuentes served in the military for five years on active duty, participating in several peace-keeping operations and earning various medals, including the Humanitarian Service Medal for his assistance in the Cuban Refugee Crisis. For Fuentes, the military not only funded his academic dreams, it allowed him to serve his country and community, and gave him the courage and confidence to tackle life’s challenges including his newest one, pursuing a Ph.D. in counseling at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

“In the military I learned to face adversity and use my resources to ensure success,” Fuentes said. “Now I am able to use those same skills to manage life as a doctoral student, alongside my work responsibilities and familial duties.”

Fuentes’ transition into civilian life was made easier thanks to the community he found on campus at A&M-Commerce that respected both his military service and his academic endeavors.

“My favorite part about A&M-Commerce is the accessibility to professors who are leaders in the field and being part of a program that is rich in history,” Fuentes said. “One of the most unique aspects of the program is that all of the professors are current or past leaders of their respective fields, and yet remain committed to guiding graduate students from the classroom into the professional world.”

As Fuentes keeps an eye on the future, he’s also eager to serve his fellow students each day through his work at the university’s counseling center, providing services in both English and Spanish. Of all his educational goals, helping Hispanic and Latino students achieve academic success is high on the list.

“After graduation, I plan stay in North Texas and provide counseling services to traditionally marginalized groups, and particularly Texas’ growing Latino population,” Fuentes said. “While my goals are constantly evolving, they have always included working closely with underserved populations, veterans, first-generation college students, and foster children. With my doctorate, I hope to become an advocate for accessibility to services and an ambassador for bridging the gap between minority students and a college degree.”

For Fuentes, the opportunities, scholarships, personal attention from faculty, and professional enrichment he has been afforded as a student at A&M-Commerce have been the difference maker that’s turned his goals into achievable outcomes.

“If you would have asked me 10 years ago about my future goals, I could not have imagined being in a position to attain my doctoral degree,” Fuentes said. “I remain amazed by the opportunities that this university has provided me.”