By Tricia Schwennesen
As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, we’re spotlighting A&M-San Antonio students who have worked hard, overcome challenges, and are now successfully chasing their dreams. This is the fourth of five student spotlights.
Samuel Gonzales was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley where his senior year of high school was upended when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Gonzales said he and his fellow students thought it might be a couple of days before they returned to campus, but it turned out to be much longer.
“It ended up being three years without doing anything,” said Gonzales, who graduated from high school in 2020. “I was one of the ones that was affected weirdly, socially. I was just awkward. I didn’t know what to talk to people about because for the past three years, I was locked in my room. It almost feels like it was a fever dream.”
Gonzales said it’s been a winding road to get where he is now—finding success at Texas A&M-San Antonio. He changed majors six times but is now focusing on cybersecurity. He plans to graduate in 2024.
Gonzales is also a student employee with the Student Engagement Office, former co-president of the student chapter of the National Cybersecurity Association and president of his fraternity, Delta Chi. He’s also the senior senator for the Student Government Association.
“I kind of learned to adapt,” he said, “I realized that other people are going through the same thing. It wasn’t just me that felt isolated and awkward talking to new people. So I just started using that to my advantage, making a joke out of it.”
Gonzales said he learned about resilience and persistence from his parents who are from Mexico. His mom and dad were both first-generation college students. His mom earned her master’s degree, and his dad earned a doctorate. Both stressed the importance of getting an education, he said.
“My parents were the first ones to get educated out of their families,” Gonzales said. “So that’s something that they really push on me and my sisters to make sure that they struggled for a reason—to give us a better life.”
Gonzales said growing up he watched his dad work trade jobs and take on side gigs to put himself through school. Gonzales was a teenager by the time his dad wrapped up his doctorate.
“After all the struggles that he had, he made it a point to say, ‘Hey, I struggled for a reason, I want you guys to get educated. I want you guys to do more than you think you can do.’”
Gonzales said it was his sisters and their collegiate pursuits that brought his family to San Antonio. Both attended A&M-San Antonio and then Gonzales’ parents also moved to San Antonio.
“My parents had bought a house for my sisters because they knew that they were going to be here for a couple of years,” Gonzales said. “And this is a city where my dad knew that he could find really good paying jobs at hospitals or something.”
Gonzales said his first two semesters at the University were virtual. But in 2021 he returned to campus and looking to connect with others, joined Delta Chi. Soon other members invited him on hikes and other social activities.
Gonzales said he’s learned a lot about leadership through the fraternity. And now, he’s looking forward to graduating and beginning his career.
“I really want to work in the field of cybersecurity,” Gonzales said. “This is something that I can see myself doing as a career.”
Expected to graduate: 2024