Waldo Buitrago '12
Waldo Buitrago’s family was highly educated in his homeland of Nicaragua. His father was a lawyer; his mother a therapist; and his uncle, a college professor.
That all changed at age 6, when his family immigrated to the U.S. and his parents were forced to take unskilled jobs at a distribution center and convenience store to get by. Life as an immigrant child growing up in Miami had its challenges. It was difficult for him to learn English in a bilingual culture. Crime and a general disregard for education gave him little hope for the future.
At 18, he joined the Marines to see the world. Four and a half years of living in Japan and a tour of duty in Afghanistan gave him a different perspective on life.
In 2011, he enrolled at the University of Redlands with the goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in management. He’d attended college in various states over the years during his 12 years in the military, but felt Redlands gave him the flexibility he needed to complete his education.
Never knowing when he’ll be deployed, and commuting from Twentynine Palms, he said Redlands has created a program conducive to his needs. It has made it possible for him to attend class, finish assignments and work toward his degree.
The adult program expanded his horizons. In 2011, he took part in a study abroad trip to Taiwan with graduate students, and won the Best Research Paper award for that year.
He sees himself differently now, and takes on the responsibility of leadership when working with younger Marines. “I hope to be a guiding light and to contribute to their growth,” he said.
After graduation, he hopes to apply his management expertise at his job with the Marine Corps – leveraging his education into a promotion from repairing fire trucks to managing maintenance and repairs for transportation.
Eventually, he hopes to obtain a master’s degree and improve and push his leadership potential. He’d like to become an entrepreneur, he said.
“Redlands is absolutely a stepping stone,” he said, “providing a solid set of tools to use in the future.”