May 16, 2022, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Hector Belmont was at a crossroads: He wanted to go to college, but he’d have to make sacrifices and hard choices to make that happen.
“From a very young age, I knew I wanted a college degree, but I didn’t know the work it would take to attain it,” he said. “Having the identity of being an undocumented student, I was not able to receive financial aid.”
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When fear of deportation prompted his mother and siblings to move back to Mexico, Belmont made the difficult decision to remain in Michigan and pursue his college dream.
“I told my ama (mother) that I was staying in Michigan because I was going to make their sacrifice count,” he said.
GRCC, with its affordable tuition, was the perfect place to start.
“My experience at GRCC was valuable for many reasons,” Belmont said. “First, I was able to finish my Associate of Arts degree in two and a half years. The affordable cost of tuition at GRCC was one of the main reasons I was able to attain a college education. Secondly, GRCC laid a strong educational foundation for me.”
The times he spent hanging out with friends at the Raider Grill are among his favorite memories – topped only by learning of the GRCC scholarships he had been awarded.
While it was difficult navigating college without his family, Belmont became part of an extended family of friends who were ready to help when needed.
“From giving me rides to school and buying me food when I didn’t have the money, to giving me a place to sleep – these are just some of the things that they did that helped me move along!” he said. “Every time any of them did something for me, it was the fuel that kept me going. They didn’t have to help, but they did, and I felt that it was only right to pay them back by doing and accomplishing what I said I was going to do, which was graduate!”
After earning his associate degree in 2010, Belmont transferred to Grand Valley State University, graduating in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish Literature. He is working on his master’s degree in higher education with an emphasis on adult education at GVSU and expects to graduate in December.
In 2020, Belmont was hired as a program advisor for GVSU’s TRIO program, which provides academic advising, tutoring, mentoring, financial guidance, counseling and other support services to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This month, he starts his new position as an academic advisor with GVSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Belmont, who plans to earn a doctorate someday, is proud of his educational journey and grateful to those who helped him along the way.
“I knew that staying in the USA would take me out of my comfort zone and, at times, make me homesick,” he said. “However, my determination and tenacity allowed me to keep moving forward and allowed me to navigate the unknown, while conquering so many new things.”
His first degree, from GRCC, “will always have a special spot in my heart.”
“GRCC gave me the opportunity to start my goal of being a college graduate,” he said. “This institution helped me understand that I had the potential to be more, and it gave me the tools that helped me be successful in the rest of my educational journey. GRCC is a great place to start.”
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