It takes a Bear to make a Bear! Wilbert Pichardo ’20 was initially introduced to Ursinus College by his sophomore high school Biology teacher, Rodolfo Coplin ’13.
Pichardo recalls, “Mr. Coplin’s great recollection of his own unique learning and social experiences allowed me to consider Ursinus. Once I visited the campus and met with students who had similar backgrounds, I felt excited to join this great community and begin my own UC journey.”
And, financial aid, including the Abele Scholars Program, has made it possible for Pichardo to focus on his course load rather than impending debt. He says, “Scholarship support has changed my life in ways that I know will afford me the chance to prosper in the future. It has immensely alleviated stresses pertaining to current and future debt, and I look forward to paying that forward to students with a similar story to me.”
Pichardo is one of seven Abele Scholars during this pilot year for the initiative, and the only one who is an upperclassman. The program was established by Trustee Will Abele ’61, his wife Joan Abele and the Abele Family Foundation, and provides assistance to high-achieving students with demonstrated financial need. Beyond simply offering tuition support, the program also grants funding for startup expenses, enrichment activities, and loan forgiveness upon graduation as well as supports students through one-on-one advising and small, cohort-style group meetings.
Pichardo credits the program with enabling him to expand his knowledge, create lasting relationships, and build rapport with various members of the local community. He says, “This funding has been a blessing that has empowered me to become much more accountable to both myself and others. As an Abele Scholar, it is my duty to ensure that incoming scholars smoothly transition to college settings. As a result, this has helped me in becoming a better leader on campus.”
From the start of his time at Ursinus, Pichardo’s aim was to major in International Relations—he wasted no time diving deep into his studies of world regions and topics such as revolution, economic development, and human rights. He elaborates, “The International Relations major has an advantage that few majors can offer. It allows me to gain much insight by combining courses from multiple departments and pursuing entrepreneurial and relational work opportunities.”
Pichardo is also involved in many other facets of campus life, which have prominently enriched his personal journey. He works as a dedicated volunteer with America Reads and serves as both a Bonner Leader and a Melrose Fellow with Ursinus’s Melrose Center for Global Civic Engagement, where he has managed to build on his dual passions for civil engagement and community service.
Pichardo says, “The Melrose Center has been pivotal in my growth as a caring global citizen. It has allowed me to devote time to civic engagement and serve diverse communities both within and out of the country. From tutoring locally to volunteering within communities in Jamaica, I have gained experiences that are fueled by selflessness, integrity and positivity.”
Pichardo is setting himself up for a bright future ahead, and he has bold ambitions for his career. “My goal is to one day become an ambassador to the Dominican Republic, in the hopes of fostering and optimizing economic and political relations with other countries,” he says. The opportunities he has taken advantage of at Ursinus will, no doubt, ensure success for Pichardo, and we look forward to seeing where the journey ahead will take him.