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GSC student earns national recognition

POSTED: April 8, 2009 11:24 p.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Gainesville State College's Juan Llanes is congratulated by college President Martha Nesbitt as he receives the Clark-Theodore Award for Outstanding Traditional Student on Wednesday afternoon during the school's honors program.

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Awards have been raining down on Gainesville State College student Juan Llanes.

In addition to receiving the Clark-Theodore Outstanding Traditional Student Award at the college’s honors day ceremony Wednesday, Llanes also received a national award this week.

Llanes, 22, of Cumming was selected as one of 20 community college students who were named to USA Today’s 2009 All-USA Community College Academic Team. More than 1,450 students nationwide were nominated for the team. Llanes is the first Gainesville State student to receive the honor.

Llanes sports a 4.0 grade point average and received the Clark-Theodore Outstanding Traditional Student Award, the college’s highest honor for traditional college-aged students, based on academic ability and leadership. The Outstanding Non-Traditional Student Award was presented to Carol Kraemer of Duluth.

The USA Today award was given to students of stellar academic merit who also serve the college or community. Llanes was one of 20 students who received a $2,500 stipend, obelisk and medallion in conjunction with the national honor.

As a mentor and tutor for four local sixth-graders, Llanes said he teaches them "Study to learn, not to earn." With plans to obtain a masters and then a doctorate degree, he said he seizes every opportunity to learn in the community and at Gainesville State.

"I love learning," Llanes said. "I am a learning machine."

Llanes immigrated to the United States from Havana, Cuba, in 2006 when he was 19. Since then, he enrolled at Gainesville State where he will earn associates degrees in computer science and business administration upon graduation this spring. This fall, he plans to attend Georgia Tech, where he will major in computer science and minor in business.

At Gainesville State, Llanes is the vice president for Students in a Free Enterprise. He and other club members have developed a capital markets program to teach local high school students about bonds, savings accounts, mutual funds and taxes.

Llanes has worked with two professors to develop a software program that uses physics and geographical information systems to help physics students capture and study a visual image of their own real-world motion. The program could be used by students worldwide, Llanes said.

"That’s why it’s so important to me, because it’s my first project giving back to society," he said. "It’s my contribution that I’ve poured my best into."

Llanes also serves as the vice president for Students for a Progressive Society, a student club that raises funds and awareness for people living in poverty and suffering from natural disasters around the world. Llanes helped the group to bring Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital neurosurgeon Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa to speak to undocumented students Friday at the Oakwood campus. Quiñones-Hinojosa came to the United States from Mexico as a California field worker, but after obtaining citizenship and a degree from Harvard Medical School, he is a brain surgeon on the front lines against cancer.

Llanes said he’s thankful for the opportunities at Gainesville State that allow him to make a difference in the community and achieve his academic goals.

"I’m actually achieving my dreams," he said. "I don’t know if it’s American or Cuban, but I’m achieving it and I’m so grateful. I’m proud of where I come from and I’m proud of where I’m going, and I’m proud I’m here."



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