Gaston College student’s work as an EMT inspires pursuit of a medical career

Steven Lugo’s prescription for success is hard work

Steven Villela Lugo will graduate with high honors and an Associate in Science degree from Gaston College on Friday, May 13. When he enters the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall, it will mark his next step on a circuitous journey that began in California and will continue to medical school.

Lugo left his home state of California to travel the U.S. in search of an environment where he felt he could grow. After a year, he decided to room with a friend in North Carolina and try to pursue a career as an EMT. A high school diploma or equivalent is required to be an EMT, so, at the age of 24, Lugo got his GED and joined Cleveland County EMS. There, he was encouraged to become a paramedic, but he realized that he loved the field of medicine so much that he wanted to function as a medical provider at a higher level.

In the spring of 2021, Lugo enrolled at Gaston College with the intention of earning an associate degree and then transferring to a four-year university. The 4.0 GPA he maintained prompted him to apply to UNC-Chapel Hill with plans to major in biomedical engineering to acquire the most resources and knowledge to excel as a medical doctor.

A student advisor at Gaston College recommended that Lugo join the SPARC program, which supports students in STEM-related majors with hands-on classes, mentors, research experience and scholarships. “I’ve been very grateful for the financial assistance provided by SPARC,” said Lugo. “Another huge benefit was being able to sit down and talk with people like Dr. Maggiotti, who helped me gain the confidence to apply to Chapel Hill and believe in myself enough to continue my path toward medical school.”

Dr. Virginie Maggiotti is the SPARC Scholar success coach. “Steven is a great example of what our students at Gaston College can do if they work hard and dream big,” she said. “He is a bright and driven student, and I am sure he will enjoy a tremendous amount of success at Chapel Hill and beyond. His excitement and positive outlook on life is contagious and I am so glad I got to meet him and work with him.”

Lugo is now 29 years old and encourages others to work hard to reach their objectives. “It has been a curvy and interesting path to get to where I am now,” he said. “To anyone who is exploring their options, I would say that the most abundant thing in the world is wasted talent. Don’t take satisfaction in your innate ability but instead take pride in the sheer amount of hard work and discipline you put toward achieving your goals. Hard work beats talent when talent isn’t working hard.”

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