Joliet Junior College student Thomas Gonzalez, 19, was chosen to address the Class of 2019 as the student commencement speaker.
Gonzalez moved from Mexico to Morris when he was 15, leaving his family behind and needing to learn a new language in pursuit of a better education, according to a news release.
Finding stable places to stay was difficult, according to the release.
At one point in the process, he was taken in by one of his high school teachers.
“Ever since I was in middle school, I knew that the U.S. had better schools and a better education, and if I wanted to have a better future, coming to the U.S. would be a good idea,” Gonzalez said in the release.
Gonzalez started at JJC in 2017 and got involved with student government, the Business Club and International Club. He’s been able to balance his involvement on campus with part-time jobs and a heavy course load.
This semester, he’s taking
25 credit hours. Besides playing sports and music, he also is interested in solving Rubik’s Cubes. His fastest completion time is 39 seconds.
“Many people worried about me and said that I was doing too much,” he said in the release. “They did not understand that all the problems that I went through changed the way that I saw life. I knew that I was capable of doing more.”
Gonzalez will graduate with two associate’s degrees. He plans to study electrical engineering and minor in physics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
JJC’s commencement ceremony is May 17.