From dropout to SGA president
By Michael Finch
SGA president Juliette Llado.
At first glance, Juliette Llado strikes you as an average 18-year-old college student.
Silky, flowing black hair frames an omnipresent Miss Universe contestant-type smile and piercing green eyes.
She loves dancing salsa and nonchalantly talks about her passion for make-up and all that is Twilight.
But her story is far from a fairy tale.
Her early childhood included breaking-up fights between her mother, Yamila Vazquez, and her father, Ivan Llado.
The constant tension forced her to take on adult responsibilities. As a sophomore at Miami Springs High School, her focus switched from analyzing algebraic expressions and dissecting dangling modifiers to helping her mother care for her younger sister, Aileen Llado, and brother Ivan Llado Jr.
She often stayed home, missing day after day of class.
Her grades slipped. By sixteen she was a high school dropout. When she entered Miami Dade College’s North Campus – in the summer of 2007 – she was forced to take remedial courses in math, English and reading.
“I wasn’t a brainiac,” Llado said recently while describing her rocky start at MDC. “I landed in college prep courses, so I had to work my way up.”
A feat that she has – without a doubt — accomplished.
Today, Llado, a journalism/mass communications major, is the top student leader at MDC’s North Campus serving as the student government association president. She sports a 3.52 GPA and is scheduled to earn her associate in arts degree this May.
She has her sights set on transferring to prestigious schools such as Cornell University, Wellesley College, and Emerson College.
“[Juliette] is a highly motivated young lady and a truly refreshing personality [with] a sound sense of purpose as a leader on this campus," said North Campus dean of students Malou Harrison.
Since taking office Llado has spearheaded various civic-minded activities for SGA such as a beach clean up, a visit to the Ronald McDonald House, and she hopes to volunteer with the Miami Rescue Mission during the holidays.
“I was looking for something [where] I thought I could make a difference in people’s lives,” Llado said, explaining why she first joined SGA.
She started as senator, and then earned the position of public relations director for the 2008-2009 school year.
“I won’t say that I was an amazing leader because it was all brand new to me, [but] with SGA I saw the broader picture of issues. I changed my mind about the student body,” Llado said while recalling her early days at SGA.
Energized, Llado knew she had found a home. She decided to run for SGA president for the 2009-10 school year.
“I was thrilled and I supported her,” said student life director, Jaime Anzalotta, who serves as a co-advisor to SGA. “I saw an individual that was extremely motivated, that had a lot of potential, was focused, determined, and knew exactly what she wanted.”
The job has kept her juggling a hectic schedule.
A quick glance at the self-made schedule posted on the front of a black binder she totes around campus is proof of that. It is a kaleidoscope of colors separating her daily activities. It lists her class schedule, which includes seven courses, a part-time job at the new student center, SGA executive board meetings, SGA senate meetings, and a bi-weekly meeting with Harrison.
“She is one of those leaders who knows how to differentiate between, boss and leader,” said North Campus SGA vice-president, Danyelle Carter, “that’s what I learned from her — how to be a leader.”
Those who know Llado say the leader in her was always there. But she credits her cousin, Kesia Vazquez a part-timer at the new student center at the North Campus, with being a key cog that helped her straighten out her life.
“For [my family] going to college is not really an option, its just work and make money, that’s the only thing,” Vazquez said. “I came in and showed her the light of school, [because] you will only have freedom with an education.”
And now Llado, whose parents arrived in Miami during the Mariel Boatlift, is poised to change her life’s course. She dreams of working in a field related to human rights law or public relations.
And, today, that dream doesn’t seem that far off: “I feel that anywhere I go I’ll be ready no matter what,” Llado said.
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