SGA President on Helping Others Find Their Voice

Since he was 14 years old, Ricardo Barranon has been volunteering alongside his mother, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at a school for migrant workers in Tampa, FL. He did paperwork and cleaning until he was old enough to help teach English to the heavily Spanish-speaking student population.

Today, as the new president of AUC’s Student Government Association, Barranon is continuing this longstanding theme in life—to help others’ voices be heard.

What made you want to become a physician?

When I was in high school, I really enjoyed learning about the brain in psychology class. That led me down the path of biology and anatomy, and I’ve been fascinated by medicine since.

Throughout the years, there have been a lot of road blocks in my career path—it waxed and waned a little. But what eventually brought me back was that I felt a calling to help people, through all the volunteer work and time I’ve spent with people in my community.

How did you decide to come to AUC?

When I graduated from Florida State University in 2010, my grades weren’t where I wanted them to be for U.S. med school applications. My college roommate, who was in a similar situation, actually enrolled at AUC and urged me to apply as well, but I needed to support myself and decided to look for a job first. It was the end of the economic recession and jobs were hard to come by, so I worked at a restaurant for a while.

There, I learned humility and maturity, and I was able to take on a new direction of trying to better myself academically. From there, I became certified as an EMT and earned a master’s degree in Medical Sciences. I eventually took my old roommate’s advice and applied to AUC.

For the past semester, you’ve served as a first semester class representative. What drew you to become involved in the SGA?

I had an inspiration to be that bridge of communication between my fellow students and the rest of the administration. It’s been a common theme in my life. Before I even realize it, I become invested in somebody else and wanting to advocate for them, especially when I feel they might not have a voice.

What I like about the SGA is that we do have an effective voice. You can really make a difference, as opposed to some undergrad organizations I’ve experienced where nothing much gets done. I came here with the perspective of trying to listen more than I talk, and I like having the ability to represent the students that I’ve met.

What do you aim to accomplish as president of the SGA?

I want to make sure that the lines of communication are open on both sides. Students want their concerns to be heard, but they also want to fully understand what’s expected of them by faculty and the administration. And beyond AUC, students want to make sure their school is represented well. Whether through their own scores or success, that’s something they talk about a lot.

One of my main goals is to continue to foster a sense of community and pride in AUC. It’s already good, but I’d like to really focus on the success of our alumni and make it top of mind for current students. As you’re studying, you’re tired and anxious, and it would be great to have a strong alumni presence and success stories readily available.

What do you want people to understand about AUC and the students here?

I’ve had some personal struggles—deaths in the family, failures—things I didn’t think would ever happen to me. It damaged my confidence. For a pretty long time, I felt that my dream to become a physician wasn’t achievable. I thought if I did make it into med school, I would barely make it in and barely make it through.

But I pushed myself. I persevered through a lot. I remember telling myself, ‘I just wish someone would give me a chance. What happened to me doesn’t reflect my capacity as a student. I just need someone to give me a chance.’ And AUC did.

Now, rather than barely scraping by, with hard work, I have done well in my classes, I was entrusted with the position of representative of my class, and was just elected president of the SGA. It’s far and away different from how I expected my life would be.

So anyone who is applying to med school shouldn’t sell themselves short. They shouldn’t view themselves as a failure just because of events that have happened in the past. AUC is the type of school that gives smart, driven students a chance to move beyond what has happened to them and really have an opportunity to succeed.

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