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Alumni Spotlight: Allen Chen


Hitting the ground running after graduating from Lennard High School, Allen Chen enrolled at the Hillsborough Community College (HCC) SouthShore Campus. Allen was born in New York City and his family decided to move down to Ruskin, Florida where he grew up. Allen became a first-generation college student after helping his parents manage their local Chinese restaurant. He started at HCC in July 2021 as a full-time student with the goal of getting his associate degree in information technology (IT).

Throughout his time at HCC, Allen has always been supported by his peers, faculty and staff. “They’re always showing you their smile and will never leave you behind,” he says. He struggled with communication skills and he expressed these difficulties. He was responded to, given direction and offered free tutoring. “The tutoring is wonderful, it’s free and they won’t discourage you to become a better student.”

Allen was a student worker for the SouthShore Campus Student Government Association (SGA). His tasks included signing people in and out of the Campus Student Center and assisting SGA with setting up and volunteering at events. Being so involved created a lot of wonderful memories, his favorite being during Disney Week, where students got to participate in Disney-themed crafts, had live music and vendors for the event.

He thanks many staff members, notably campus president, Dr. Jennifer China, for running such an inclusive community college and providing him opportunities. He thanks Cheyenne Olson, SouthShore Campus Student Activities Coordinator, for encouraging him to work at the Student Center and helping him build confidence. Since attending community college, he says, “Try it, see for yourself, don’t listen to what everyone says. They’re not inferior, they can be superior if you put in the time and effort.”

Allen graduated from HCC in spring 2023 with plans to transfer to the University of South Florida (USF) in the fall. He will pursue his bachelor's degree in IT and has future goals to work in cybersecurity. Allen was a student in HCC’s FUSE program, a partnership between USF and local community colleges, that allows students to seamlessly transfer to USF to complete their bachelor’s degree. FUSE students have access to both HCC and USF advisors, who guide them through the entire program from start to finish.

Allen started his journey with FUSE when he joined HCC in 2021 and had been saving up money to transfer to USF. He greatly recommends this program for HCC students due to its benefits. He’s been able to attend both HCC and USF events and workshops to build connections with USF peers.

Advice he says for those considering transferring to a four-year university or partaking in FUSE is, “Being resourceful is a key to success. It’s important to have motivation, but it’s important to be resourceful.” Connecting with both his HCC and USF advisors kept Allen on the right track by meeting every month. He believes resources allowed him to graduate with his associate degree and get accepted into USF with flying colors.

“Even though you start at community college, you don’t want to lose hope or motivation. You want to keep driving and keep going to reach your destination,” he says. “There are always resources around you, so take advantage of all of them, put in your potential and you will thrive.”

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