Anthony Narvaez came to Heidelberg from Fort Worth, Texas, sight unseen, arriving on campus the weekend before classes started. Here, he found a home and a direction for his life. But he faced no shortage of obstacles during his college years.
When he came to Heidelberg, Anthony’s 41-year-old father had been diagnosed with cancer complicated by a long bout of cirrhosis of the liver. He kept it quiet. “It was on my mind a lot of the time, but he had told me not to push my goals aside for him,” said Anthony. “And I didn’t want to disappoint him.”
Growing up in a rough neighborhood and the first in his family to attend college, Anthony always envisioned “the American dream.” His innate musical ability would be the avenue to get him there. Once at Heidelberg, “I finally felt like I was on a path of stability.” Halfway through his first semester, his sense of stability shattered with news that his father was near death.
Anthony was torn: Should he travel home to be with his father or continue to pursue the dream his father had for him? He sought advice from Dean of Student Affairs Dustin Brentlinger.
“Dustin told me, ‘In life, Heidelberg will always be here, but your dad, you only get one of those.’”
Anthony took Dustin’s advice to heart, traveling home to be with his father during his last days. Content with his decision, he returned spring semester with a clear head, lots of motivation and the feeling that he was coming back to a place where he felt safe and happy. He added a political science major and got to know professors John Bing and Marc O’Reilly. He joined student organizations and music ensembles. And he practiced his clarinet.
His interest in the public sector was cemented the summer of his junior year when he was accepted into Carnegie Mellon’s Public Policy and International Affairs summer institute, an elite program that he described as “a fantastic experience.”
Although he didn’t really need any more affirmation about his life’s direction, Anthony got some the fall of his junior year. That summer, he dealt with the death of his mother. But he went ahead with plans to spend the semester at American University in Washington, D.C., through Heidelberg’s long-time program there. He secured an internship with the not-for-profit Hispanic College Fund.
“That changed my entire life, actually,” Anthony said. There, he learned networking, public speaking and performance skills that will serve him well in his career.
Part of Anthony’s sense of belonging came from faculty and staff who provided a sounding board, sage advice, meals when he could barely afford to eat and compassion beyond measure. Conquering difficult circumstances has made him stronger and his Heidelberg experience has prepared him for whatever comes his way.
“My life goal is to work in the public sector, maybe as an advisor for drug policy,” Anthony said. “I’d love to help lower the demand of drugs and help stop the socio-economic ills of the drug culture.”
Long term, he hopes to impact the lives of others as his Heidelberg mentors and friends have impacted his.
And to make his father proud.