We first met Mr. Sam Paredes at the Esperanza banquet on June 21st where he received a scholarship (donated by our friend, Mr. Bernie Moreno) and gave a moving testimony about how he came to the US from Colombia to pursue his educational goals and how much Esperanza assisted him in terms of mastering the English language as well as familiarizing him with the U.S. culture.
Less than two weeks later, we met Sam again at a Common Ground luncheon hosted by Global Cleveland wherein the participants discussed their ancestry. At this point we took Sam’s contact information, believing him to be a fine candidate for an “I, Foreign-Born” interview which thereafter took place at Coffee, Coffee, Coffee on Pearl Road in Old Brooklyn, an establishment that he likes to frequent. We learned that Sam is now eighteen and a recent graduate of Heritage Christian School on Tiedeman in Brooklyn, Ohio. He plans to remain in the United States to attend college in order that he may pursue a career in cybersecurity which is one of the main reasons that he decided to come to the United States.
Sam was born in 2001 in Ipiales which is a small, Andean city in Southern Colombia about 10 minutes away from the Ecuadorian border. He credits his parents (now divorced) with instilling within him the value of education and positive, moral values. On the latter point, his very close, special relationship with his grandmother (now deceased) was also a strong, contributing factor. Since his mother, is official with the Colombian government programs, Sam got to travel throughout Colombia and was made very aware of the increasing threat of cybercrime. Since he is a genuine techno buff with a strong social conscience, Sam made up his mind at an early age that cybersecurity was indeed his calling so he started to explore ways to make a career of it.
Unfortunately, the educational system in Colombia (at least at this time) doesn’t offer much in terms of career pathways in information technology. Plus, his parents wanted him to enlist in the army, as is the custom for young men of promise, in order to advantage of its scholastic benefits. But at age 16, Sam was both determined and adventuresome so, working entirely on his own, he explored cybernetic offerings in countries other than his own and finally decided to make a go of it in the United States. He thus applied for a J-1 visa which is for individuals interested in exchange visitor programs. Soon afterward, he was instructed to report to the United States Embassy for an interview.
Of course, at this point, Sam had to share what he had been up to with his parents who were floored in the beginning but ultimately supportive. Subsequently, his father accompanied him to the U.S. Embassy for his interview wherein all kinds of questions were asked of Sam who described the process as being exhaustive. Nevertheless, Sam prevailed and was granted a J-1 visa which enabled him to come to the United States as an exchange student for one year. Next, he was selected by a host family in the Cleveland area and finally got to travel here in late December 2017 and then enrolled at James Ford Rhodes High School on Biddulph Road in Brooklyn, Ohio where he described his status as being somewhere between junior and senior.
As is the case with many young international students, Sam needed help with mastering the English language so, as we have written, Esperanza proved to be a valuable resource along with several teachers who devoted a lot of their time to helping Sam for which he will always be quite grateful. Soon his J-1 year was nearly up but Sam needed more time to complete high school. In order to be granted a six-month extension, Sam would have to return to Colombia and undergo the whole grueling interview process once again which he did but, fortunately, the results were excellent because he was able to obtain a five-year F-1 visa lasting from December 2018 to December, 2023 which would not only give him the time he needed to complete high school, he could attend college as well!
So in August 2019, Sam will begin a two-year program in computers and cybersecurity at Tri-C. At this point, he is uncertain as to what college to attend to complete his BA but he understands that such institutions as Baldwin-Wallace, Kent State, and the University of Akron proffer programs that will fulfill his needs. Afterward, Sam wants to wait and see. Needless to say, though, if he could obtain an H-1B visa and stay in the United States it would be ideal; if not, he might explore job opportunities in his own country of Colombia as well as those of the European arena like Germany and Spain.
Of course, he loves the time that he has spent in the United States because he has made a lot of friends, loves his host family, and really appreciates the international flavor of Cleveland. In fact, one of the activities that he and his friends really enjoy is taking meals at our wide range of ethnic restaurants. After Sam returned from Colombia, he chose to complete high school at Heritage Christian School on Tiedeman Road and it certainly was a big day for him when he graduated on May 24, 2019. What’s more, both of his parents were in attendance and Sam lovingly credits them with impressing upon him the tenet that his life is his own and that he has the power to choose what he wishes to do with it.