In his State of the State speech Wednesday, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore singled out Marylanders who are making a difference in their communities as leaders and volunteers.
Last year, he put the spotlight on Montgomery College student Jefferson Vasquez-Reyes, an 18-year-old with dreams of becoming a doctor.
Vasquez-Reyes, now 19 and in his final semester at Montgomery College, said he’s making progress in his studies and his drive to serve his community has grown stronger. He’s applied for the Southern Management Leadership Program that provides scholarships for students in community college who then go on to the University of Maryland at College Park.
“I will be starting my fall semester at College Park, majoring in public health science and community health,” Vasquez-Reyes said.
Outside his classes, Vasquez-Reyes said he volunteers in a clinical setting at George Washington University School of Medicine, an opportunity that brings him back to what he calls “the why” of his desire to go into medicine.
The son of immigrants from El Salvador, Vasquez-Reyes said as a child, he was often in the role of translator for his parents. That was especially important when his parents were ill.
Vasquez-Reyes told WTOP he vividly recalls the reaction of one patient as he stepped into the room to translate for the doctors and medical students at GW. The patient was a man in his 50s.
“He was rubbing his hands on his jeans, and it was obvious he was sweating. He was very nervous,” but when the patient heard Vasquez-Reyes speaking Spanish and recognized they both had Salvadoran roots, he relaxed. “As a result, he was able to reveal to us things that he withheld before from physicians because he didn’t have enough trust due to the language barrier.”
A year after he was highlighted as an example of young people striving to achieve their goals and serve their community, Vasquez-Reyes was asked what grade he would assign Gov. Moore. He said the governor should get an “A-.”
Vasquez-Reyes said he was impressed by Moore’s first year in office.
“He was really engaged with the community. He was out and about in different parts of Maryland,” including visiting the Carroll County community, which was hit hard by a windstorm. Vasquez-Reyes said the governor “showed up to see the damage and also identify a plan for relief.”
But, Vasquez-Reyes said he included the “minus” because the governor’s proposed state budget includes a plan to cut spending to community colleges.
“I was able to find out medicine was truly my interest because of the state-of-the-art labs that Montgomery College had for its microbiology classes,” Vasquez-Reyes said.
As someone who will be moving from a two-year community college to a four-year university, Vasquez-Reyes said he feels fully funding the community college system is “very vital.”
The governor’s budget proposal is under consideration by lawmakers in Annapolis, where students from across the state recently met with legislators to talk about preserving spending levels for community colleges under the state’s current funding formula.