Alumni Spotlight: Mike Pena, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

It has now been almost a month since I arrived at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a college in the city of Troy in upstate New York and I feel very happy about my college decision.  I graduated in June from University Heights High School in the South Bronx and had been a part of South Bronx United for the last two years. Applying to college was not an easy process. I got accepted to thirty great and unique schools, so deciding where to go was even harder. I chose RPI, over other colleges–including NYU, Penn State, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Michigan  and SUNY University at Binghamton–because of RPI’s outstanding academics, location, and technological approach.

With my brother Carlos. He plays on SBU 98 Boys

I came to campus early very excited to start the preseason of the Varsity Soccer team at RPI.  I had a strong mentality and was very confident that I could fit into a team with no minority students. First came the physical test, a three-mile run that had to be completed under eighteen minutes. Then, we started the tactical and technical drills to sharpen our skills. Finally, after a four hour session, the day was over with content in my heart, but soreness in my body.

The rest of the week was not so different. We continued practicing several drills and also played some pickup games in the stadium. I noticed that my soreness was not relieving, but I supposed it was just muscular fatigue. However, my assumption was not correct. The day before our first friendly game I was evaluated by one of our physical trainers. He informed me that I had developed a tendonitis in both of my calf muscles, which would prevent me to from playing for the team this season.

I felt disappointed and was full of remorse. My dream to play college soccer seemed to banish because of another injury. A torn meniscus last semester had kept me off the field at South Bronx United and now tendonitis in both of my calves appears to be signals that demanded me to quit soccer. But how could I quit soccer if I come from a South American country where the only thing we have to play is a soccer ball? I simply can’t. I am hoping that taking the season off to rest will help me recover to begin training again in the spring and be ready for next year.

Additionally, leaving the soccer team for this semester allowed me more free time to spend on activities that interested me. , I joined several clubs including: Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), American Cancer Society, Alianza Latina, Judo, and, Ski and Snowboarding. I also had the time to rush and pledge for one of the fraternities that offered me a bid, Phi Kappa Theta (Ski Lodge). In terms of soccer, I formed a competitive team to try to win the intramural league’s trophy. I have also been appointed as the Advertising Committee Understudy in SHPE, RPI Student Ambassador, and Captain of my Intramural Soccer team.

With new friends at RPI

I am taking 4 classes (16 credits): Microcomputers and Applications, Intro to Economics, Intro to Management, and Calculus. They are all extremely interesting and the load of work has not been too overwhelming. I will be taking my first tests this week and I am sure that I will do fine. Additionally I started my work-study job as a tutor last week and I feel satisfied with what I am getting from that experience.

As a South Bronx United 2012 Scholarship recipient, I will keep everyone posted with how I keep enhancing my college experience and giving back to the community that I can now call my own.

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