From ballet in Cuba to criminal justice in the U.S.

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Student Success Story

by Jenny Faubert

So, at the age of 10 you pretty much have a set routine. You wake up, go to school, and play, right? Reminisce … feel the grass squish between your toes. Okay, now that I have taken you back to that time, imagine being uprooted from that life and thrown into a new place and culture. One day you were trying out for a prestigious ballet school in Cuba and were accepted, the next you are living in Florida. Personally, I would have thrown one of those full-body tantrums.

Unlike what I would have done, Yanna Llorente, student at Southwest Florida College and recipient of the 2007 Imagine America Promise scholarship, took it in stride. Everyone’s parents hope for a better life for their children. It was this reason that the Llorente family left Cuba in 1998.

Once in the United States, Yanna entered Blake High School in Tampa, Fla. There she was able to continue her passionate love for ballet. Ballet wasn’t the only thing on her plate, though – not by far. The only thing Yanna didn’t do during her senior year of high school was sleep. Seriously! Why, you ask? Yanna was busy taking her regular classes, three AP classes, dance classes and online classes; teaching dance outside of school; and working at the mall. Why would anyone work that hard during her senior year? Yanna, the self-professed overachiever, was preparing for college.

For all of you out there thinking, “There is no way I can do all that,” Yanna agrees.

“I was so stressed out and busy I didn’t have time to figure out what college I even wanted to go to,” she said. “To other students, I advise them not to get so stressed out, because my senior year was the worst.”

After graduating from high school, Yanna was less stressed, but she still did not know where she was going to college.

“My mom said I had to stop everything and calm down,” she said.

Yanna’s relaxation lasted for two weeks. There were several schools that offered Yanna scholarships, but they just weren’t what she was looking for. Through research, Yanna found a school that made an impression on her.

“I was interested in criminal justice and found Southwest Florida College in Tampa, Fla.,” Yanna said. “I went to the college and was very impressed with the teachers. It was family-oriented; the teachers know the students and what the students want and need. I was very impressed by the visit.”

In 2008, Yanna will get her Associate degree in Criminal Justice from Southwest Florida College. And, guess what – she is not stopping there. By 2010, she plans to have her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. No surprise that this hard worker has been on the Dean’s list for four consecutive terms and maintains a 4.0 GPA. Impressed? I am. Oh, I almost forgot: She is also President of her chapter of the Alpha Beta Kappa honor society.

What does the future hold for Yanna? Washington, D.C. D.C. holds a special place in Yanna’s heart since she would like to work in national security with the FBI or as part of the White House staff. This young lady is motivated, hard working, intelligent and more. I have only mentioned half the stuff she has done, really. I would have to write a book to cover all of her accomplishments. We at the Imagine America Foundation have no doubt Yanna will be very successful in life.

The Imagine America Foundation would like to thank our sponsor, The Sallie Mae Fund, for Yanna Llorente’s Imagine America Promise scholarship. The Imagine America Promise scholarship program is the actualization of our promise to assist students who are currently attending participating Imagine America career colleges by way of the Imagine America high school scholarship and whose exceptional grades show a strong commitment to their current programs of study. To find out more, visit