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Students Who Soar: Edwin Delvalle Overcomes Odds to Succeed in School, Life

Posted: February 10, 2017

While growing up in Brooklyn, New York, senior Edwin Delvalle was determined not to become another statistic. Because he’s the child of a teen mother living in an urban environment, many predicted he wouldn’t finish high school, let alone go to college.

But the young man, who plans to pursue a career in forensic psychology, earned excellent grades and catapulted himself to the top of his graduating class at the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism.

When it came time for college, Delvalle chose Buffalo State for its excellent criminal justice program. At the time, he wanted to be a criminal profiler. Buffalo State's academic offerings, coupled with its location, made it the clear choice.

“Everyone always said that Buffalo was ‘the other’ city after New York, and it was far enough away from home yet close enough,” said Delvalle. “I wanted to meet different kinds of people, experience new things.”

When Buffalo State offered Delvalle the best financial aid package, he was ready to go.

But near the end of his senior year of high school, Delvalle's mother was viciously attacked by a neighbor's pit bulls. The attack was so ferocious that she spent a year recovering from her injuries and the ensuing posttraumatic stress disorder. This resulted in her losing her job.

Delvalle was reluctant to leave his mother’s side, However, she wanted him to pursue his dream of earning a college degree—one she cherished right along with him.

Without his mother's financial help, Delvalle soon realized he couldn’t pay for expenses not covered by scholarships—textbooks and even groceries—and thought he would have to return home. This is when Buffalo State’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) stepped in, accepting him into the program and connecting him with an emergency fund.

“Jude Jayatilleke (EOP senior academic adviser), especially, advocated for me and made sure I got the extra financial assistance I needed,” Delvalle said. “EOP was a godsend.”

As a way of giving back, Delvalle now works as an EOP mentor, tutoring students who are struggling in writing, criminal justice, and psychology courses. He points to his supervisor, Maria Brickhouse, coordinator for the Center for Academic Excellence, as a big motivator.

“She pushed me to want better for myself and to help others as others have helped me. She’s pushed me in numerous ways.”

This meant encouraging Delvalle to step outside of his comfort zone. A self-described introvert, Delvalle said striking up conversations and participating in extracurricular activities doesn’t come naturally. Yet that’s exactly what he’s learned to do during his four years at Buffalo State. 

“Ms. Brickhouse, and others staff members I’ve worked with, pushed me to not have tunnel vision and to look at the bigger picture,” he said. “It’s not all about getting A’s, but also about leaving a mark on the campus and positively influencing others.”

After getting involved with the African American Students Organization during his sophomore year, Delvalle was promoted to vice president. Through this organization, he has helped with community-service activities on campus, hosted programs promoting awareness in African American communities, and held events to promote campus unity.

In October, he also participated in—and won—the campus’s Mr. Smooth competition, a male pageant showcasing talent.

Overall, he said, Buffalo State transformed him into a better version of himself.

“It’s been good not to be the typical Edwin I was before but to be more excited to do things and meet new people,” he said.

He advises first-year and transfer students to get involved on campus and to make the most of their college experience.

“Opportunity can be handed to you in the blink of an eye. You don’t want to miss it,” he said, adding that involvement also boosts confidence during challenging moments.

“It gets tough sometimes. There are times you want to cry in your room. You doubt yourself,” he said. “Always remember what got you here. Always remember who you want to be, who you want to become. That will push you through the whole way to graduation.”

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