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Graduate Spotlight: Omar Melendez


At 28 years old, Omar Melendez joins the Hillsborough Community College class of 2020 alumni family after receiving his associate in arts degree. 


Originally from Puerto Rico, Omar moved to the United States in 2010. Before enrolling at HCC in fall 2017, he felt lost. “I went through a little depression because I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life when I came to the U.S. It took me a while to find myself, and I can confidently say I found myself at HCC.” 


Omar had always had a passion for filmmaking but was too afraid to pursue it as a career. Nevertheless, he made the plunge and decided it was time to make his dream a reality. “I want to change the perspective of the world through cinema. I want a world with more inclusion on tv and movie screens. I’m going to work really hard to create stories with leading roles that Latinx, other minorities and the LGBTQ community can identify with.” 


At HCC, Omar had the goal of pushing himself academically until he met the requirements to get into the honors program. He knew being an honors student would lead to scholarship opportunities beyond HCC. After a year and a half, he finally earned a GPA high enough to apply for the program, and he was accepted.  


After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in late 2017, Omar, along with three other students from the honors program, traveled to the island to visit his high school. While there, they volunteered their time to offer the student’s filmmaking workshops for a week. 


Eventually, Omar was also invited to apply for the HCC HOPE Scholars program; eligibility required him to be recommended by an HCC staff or faculty. “The HOPE Scholars initiative focuses on degree completion by improving persistence, retention and upper-division transfer rates among African American and Latino male students.” HOPE scholars transfer to some of the most prestigious universities in the country, and the program has a 100% transfer rate to bachelor’s degree programs. 


Because of the program, Omar says, “I matured professionally and as a person. I learned how to present myself and how important it is to make a first impression. I’ve been able to network and connect with people in the film industry, including the Tampa film commissioner. He even gave me his business card and said to reach out regarding internship opportunities once I receive my bachelor’s degree.” 


Thanks to the professional development Omar received through the program, he is proud to say he created Express Yourself, an unofficial organization at HCC geared toward Latinx students who have an interest in art and are unsure of pursuing it as a degree path. “I created the organization to motivate them to fight for what they want.” 


“The opportunity of becoming a leader has been my favorite part of attending HCC. I became the film club president and a senator for the Student Government Association at Dale Mabry. I did a lot at HCC that helped me explore other skills I didn’t know I had and became an extroverted, energetic person.” 


When asked what his plans are for fall 2020, Omar responded, “Wow, can you believe I still haven’t decided! I have so many offers I’m still reviewing. I want to thank the HOPE program because I used it in my application essays as one of the best experiences I ever had in college.” 


Omar was accepted into the film programs of the following universities: The University of California Irvine, University of California Riverside, California Lutheran University, California College of the Arts, Loyola Marymount University, University of Central Florida, University of Miami and the New York Institute of Technology. 


His top two choices are the University of Irvine, which only had a 26% acceptance rate this year, and California Lutheran University. 


Congratulations to Omar as he embarks on his next adventure. HCC is proud to welcome him into the alumni family. 

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