Rafael Pineda - Service
Three years ago, when Rafael Pineda arrived in the Greensboro, N.C. from the Dominican Republic, he was 16 years old and didn’t speak any English.
He enrolled in an English immersion program and within six months, he was ready to chart his course.
“I did everything to improve my English,” he said. In addition to his instructional lessons, he read books in English, listened to American music and made his family talk to him in English.
“If I didn’t understand a word, I looked it up,” he said proudly, in a dictionary he carried with him all the time.
Determined to make his dreams a reality, Pineda enrolled in the National Guard. He recently was promoted to Private E-3, where he works as a transportation specialist. Next, on his list was going to college.
“I searched around and saw that A&T had one of the best ROTC programs in the state,” he said. The 19 year-old enrolled at N.C. A&T State University and the Army ROTC program in the 2013-14 academic year.
“I instantly felt welcomed,” he said, explaining that he had never been around African-Americans prior to coming to A&T. “I fit right in and it’s been a great experience for me,” he added.
“I’m glad I am surrounded by the people in ROTC as well. I joined the military to excel in my career. This program makes me excel and it pushes me to be a better person,” he added. Pineda gives credit to ROTC’s Master Sgt. Stephan Rice for being a great example.
“He is so wise. He has the perfect example or answer for any situation. I really admire him. It’s amazing watching him work with us and I feel like he believes in us. He is a true example of a leader to me,” he said.
Pineda is a freshman majoring in business administration. In addition to his goals to become an officer in the Army, he also has his sights set on one day becoming a successful businessman.
“My dad is an international businessman. I think I got my inspiration from him. Ever since I was a child, I knew that I was going to be involved in this industry.” Pineda said he would like to combine his love for fashion design with his business acumen and one day become an entrepreneur.
Pineda said he has always believed in himself and achieving his goals. Besides learning English, he can speak fluent Portuguese and is learning to speak French – a feature he knows will help him succeed in the business arena.
He already has his sights set on a master’s program.
He feels blessed to be at the university and in America. “I had a very interesting childhood. My childhood was unstable and I had to study twice as hard in school,” he said. I have always had to motivate myself and it has helped me to stay focused on the things that I want to accomplish, he added.
Pineda is on the road to success and said as long as he stays focused on his goals, he knows there is nothing that can stop him.