He’s everywhere. Whether it’s giving a tour to future Saints or hanging out with friends or sitting by the bench on the sidelines or studying for an exam – there’s Manny on the SCCC campus. All-Kansas Academic Team honoree and SCCC sophomore Emanuel Serrano will soon wrap up a remarkable two years.
Serrano says he gets his passion and drive from his parents — immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador.
“They’ve worked hard ever since they’ve been here [in this country],” he said. “They were janitors and now they own their own business which was one of my mom’s goals and dreams. Just seeing that really motivated me. The way they taught me is work for what you want, work as hard as you can and opportunities can open for you.”
Serrano took that work ethic instilled by his parents and focused it on his education. Along the way, he absorbed the same message from other important figures. Fellowship Baptist School in Liberal played an important role.
“Especially from middle school to high school I had teachers, friends, mentors that were very impactful in my life,” he said. “They told me, ‘Whatever you do, do it to your best. My biggest thing is my faith in god that drives me to do my best so I can glorify him.”
While Serrano was successful at his small private high school, he knew that college would be a challenge. He didn’t find the prospect intimidating, he said.
“I love a challenge,” Serrano said. “I’ve always want to go at it, no matter how big it is. I want to make an impact on campus. I don’t just want to be there. I want to contribute to community and the campus.”
When he arrived on the SCCC campus, Serrano viewed club involvement as a means to explore career paths. He also discovered more interests and opportunities than he’d encountered thus far in life. Serrano joined Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges; he joined the Hispanic American Leadership Organization, which reflected pride in his own family heritage; he signed up for Campus Messengers for Christ because it aligned with his convictions; and he threw in Student Government Association and Pathways, too.
“I just wanted opportunities opened for my career path,” he said. In the beginning, it felt like a strategic move, something that might advance his dream of becoming an athletic training. As he became more involved, however, Serrano found the experiences were changing his focus to something more fundamental, a reflection of character more than ambition: “I wanted to be the best student I could be at Seward County,” he said.
As it turned out, Serrano did see a positive impact on his career goals.
“It’s opened opportunities to other schools,” he continues. “I’ve got some scholarships. Little did I know that being involved on campus would lead me to scholarships like PTK and the All-l Academic team award.”
A member of the Bridges to Success cohort, an SCCC science department program aligned with Kansas State University, Serrano has also been able to participate in undergraduate research projects overseen by SCCC microbiology instructor Myron Perry. Bridges ensures a seamless interlock between SCCC and K-State, prepping students to move ahead with extra support that extends to their families as well. It’s designed for first-generation students from underrepresented groups in the STEM disciplines, and is a good fit for Serrano, whose family ties are strong.
“I know my parents were super proud of me,” he said. “That’s another big motivator.”
So how does Serrano keep all his activities together?
“Time management,” he said. “Sometimes I’m not good at it, but I try to schedule a plan throughout the day. I do everything on campus. It really helps that my work study job and athletic training happen on campus. I’m usually here from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. It takes a lot of discipline. I try to set times throughout the day to focus on each club.”
Just as important to Serrano are the friends that help him make it through.
“They help me out a lot. When I have athletic training or have to study, there are people in the clubs that can take over and help me do things. They have my back and help make those clubs successful,” he said.
As he heads to Kansas State where he will continue his journey to a profession in athletic training, Serrano said he will have fond memories of Seward County Community College.
“The awesome support from all my friends and instructors is key,” he said. “Sometimes I’m a little overwhelmed about how good I have had it. Having staff and instructors be willing to write letters of recommendation, talk about what I want to do, have an interest in me — they try to open doors for me.”
In particular, Serrano said SCCC Athletic Trainer Liz Hill and Phi Theta Kappa sponsor and biology instructor Ty Hughbanks have had a huge impact.
“Liz Hill has invested in my future,” he said. “She takes the time to talk about my future and the different kind of careers I might pursue. Ty Hughbanks gave me confidence that I can achieve what I set out to do.”
While Serrano will walk across the stage, collect his degree, and move east to Manhattan at the end of this academic year, he won’t exactly be leaving SCCC behind, he said.
“I don’t think there are many colleges like Seward County that provide this immense support,” he said. “It’s something that will always be part of me.”