Mariano Isaac, 20, is a fourth-year Business Administration student at the Universidad de El Salvador (which he says is “the best” of all the universities in the country!). He lives at home with eight other family members: his father, a security guard, his mother, who cares for the home and children, his two older brothers, two younger brothers and younger sister, and neice. Each day, Mariano wakes at 5 a.m. in order to leave home at 5:50 and catch the bus. When there is heavy traffic, the bus ride to the university takes two hours, “three hours at the most,” according to Mariano. Classes then begin at 7:30 and end at 11:50. Mariano generally stays on campus to study and work on assignments until around 4 p.m.  After another lengthy bus ride, he returns home as the day turns to dusk and does not crawl into bed until midnight. 

We asked Mariano to answer a few questions to help you get to know him better. Below are his responses!

What are some of your professional aspirations?

To own my own business, to help others, and to perhaps one day be president.

Why do you think your education is important?

Because through education, I can help my little brothers and sisters to better themselves and become good members of society. I can help those who need it, even if I can’t always give much. Everything starts somewhere and sometimes the things we think we do in vain actually end up bearing the most fruit.

Describe someone who has inspired or motivated you:

God has been the main motivator for everything I am. He is the sun, illuminating my path. In addition, my parents help me greatly and support me in my decisions.

How has the crime/violence in this country affected you personally?

To start, you don’t feel at ease on the bus for fear that you’ll be robbed. Sometimes we think about quitting the scholarship program so we wouldn’t have to move through different gang-controlled areas. My family was even going to move to Canada as refugees because of the fear we were in. Thank God, that’s been resolved. Today, we all live with this fear and it seems like it’s getting worse. Even in the daytime, it seems as if the sun isn’t shining.

How do you think positive change can come about in your community or country?

First, by fighting for children so that the gangs don’t corrupt them. Second, bringing awareness to parents so they don’t neglect their children; so they educate them and fight for them. Third, implementing programs to prevent crime that actually work and do something to give those who have committed crimes a second chance.

Tell us about your community service project.

I’m in the Clean Water Project, and before that I helped with the PAES [high school exit exam] Student Support Project. I gave orientation classes to students at my old high school because I wanted them to do much better on the PAES exam, especially in the science part, because I didn’t have a good [science] teacher and I didn’t want the same thing to happen to them. I dedicated myself to helping them so they’d do better.

What do you do in your free time?

I’m learning to play the guitar at the Do Mi Sol Academy. I also like to go on trips and take lots of pictures of landscapes.

What is your favorite book or genre?

“Platero and I,” “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “Dracula,” “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” “Life is a Dream,” “Poems and Legends,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “The Metamorphosis,” “A Doll’s House,” and “The Short Stories of Edgar Allen Poe.” My favorite genre is European Romanticism.

What is your favorite music?

Pop, pop-rock and alternative rock. My favorite artist is Grupo Rojo, and I listen to music by Tobymac, Emmanuel y Linda, Britt Nicole, Hillsong, and the Newsboys.

What are your best qualities?

I never let myself feel defeated and I like to debate social issues.

What is something surprising about you that only a few people know?

When I was little I was dead for 24 hours because I got encephalitis. The doctors thought I wouldn’t walk again.

What would you say if you could speak face-to-face with your sponsors?

Thank you so much for everything that you do for me. I know the effort that you are putting forth, and will make good use of your support. May God bless you!!!