Melissa Cucalon" />

In 1982, a young Luis Cucalon arrived in New York City from Ecuador. He intended to visit his older brother on vacation, but the city’s charm and allure convinced him to stay. Without knowing a word of English, Cucalon enrolled in LaGuardia Community College to study English as a second language.

Reflecting on those early days, he fondly recalls the college’s support. “They were really helpful,” he reminisces, “I still remember The Beatles songs they had us learn.” Cucalon proceeded to joyfully sing When I am sixty-four by the Beatles. With a hint of a smile in his eye. 

“It was easier then,” he remarked. 

While attending college, Cucalon juggled work as a receptionist and a movie theater usher. Despite the language difficulties and the demands of his jobs, he never lost sight of his passions. “That was a great job for me [the movie theater usher]. I was able to watch movies, and I would get all these movie posters,” he recalls with nostalgia. 

Gradually, he obtained his GED and became fluent in English.

Years later, Cucalon returned to Ecuador for a short visit, but fate had other plans. He met Lorena Molina, and their connection led to marriage and starting a family. Although he faced financial struggles, Cucalon never let go of his passion for learning. “The main issue I’ve had whenever I tried to go to school is time and money. Especially with kids,” he acknowledges. 

A serendipitous discovery changed their lives. “I was looking up information for my wife to go to school. And saw this school in NYC for TV and film production, and we decided to pack up and head to NYC,” he reveals.

With perseverance and determination, Cucalon embarked on a grueling journey. Working two jobs, attending school, and surviving on only three hours of sleep each night, he faced tremendous hardship.

His wife, Lorena, vividly remembers the challenges they encountered during their time in New York. “It was miserable,” she recalls, “I had to take care of two toddlers in New York alone in the cold.” A fact she often reminds her children of anytime any of them complain. 

“It was hard for me,”said Molina, “I had two strollers–for the two babies–Lucho [Luis] was working and I couldn’t work or afford daycare so I took them everywhere with me. I would have to carry both of them up and down the stairs for the subway at the same time–I was scared that something could happen to them.” 

Despite the difficulties, Cucalon pushed through and graduated at the age of 29. Returning to Ecuador with his family, he embarked on a successful 30-year career in television, earning him awards and recognition in his home country.

Money and health are two things that people seem to have almost no control over. 

This was the case with Adam Trinkle, vice-president of Phi Theta Kappa (The Alpha Theta Phi chapter LAGCC honor society)—current LaGuardia Community College Student. After 3 unsuccessful attempts through higher education. Trinkle is currently on his fourth try, ready to graduate from LAGCC this June at 41 years old. 

Hailing from Georgia, Allan grew up in a military family. He was always told from the age of ten that he would have to figure out how he was going to pay for college. So, when it finally came time to go to college in 2000 at age 17, Allen, with his 4.0 GPA qualified for a ROTC scholarship with the air force for a premed major. 

However, Trinkle’s time in this program was cut short. Due to a new diagnosis of epilepsy in December of 2000, he was no longer eligible for the scholarship. 

This left the young man with seemingly no academic prospects for two years. 

“I went back to a local community college when I lived in Maryland, but I went in with no plan and no motivation. It felt like something I had to do. So, I did Gen-ed.”—Trinkle Remarked. “That didn’t last long at all.” 

Lack of motivation and plan are a lethal combination for any endeavor. So, this second attempt to college was short lived and Trinkle paused his educational pursuits till 2006. 

“I finally realized I liked cars, working with my hands.”— “ I went back to school for the third time, I was studying engineering—same as now.” He remarks. 

This time, he furthered his education. “I got all the way to my third trimester! But I was working full time and had to support myself. Towards the end I was burnt out.” 

After this third attempt, Trinkle took his longest break from school. During this break he found love and had a daughter. 

“I came back during the pandemic. I was privileged enough to have a wife—who is a successful singer/actress and she said she could afford it.” 

Trinkle—who had been working as a restaurant manager for nearly a decade — saw the impact that the COVID 19 pandemic had on the restaurant industry. 

The wish for job security coupled with the opportunity to be able to achieve his ambitions and the desire to set an example for his 13-year-old daughter, motivated Trinkle to enroll in LaGuardia Community College, where he is expected to graduate June 2023. At the time of this interview, he was waiting to hear from Columbia University to see if he had been accepted for transfer.

There is no step by step manual to life and there are millions of ways to measure success. “I have no regrets”–remarked Trinkle– “If I had finished school before, I would not have met my wife or had my Daughter.”