“I told her she did not have to give me her food,” said Mario. “I was embarrassed to take it—I knew she was a single mom with challenges of her own. But in broken English she replied, ‘I know what it is to be an international student, so eat. You need energy to study.’ I was very grateful to her and Heavenly Father. We were good Samaritans to each other.”
It was the fall semester of 2012, and Mario Recinos was a non-traditional student at the College. He held a five-year degree in information systems from a university in El Salvador—which turned out to be both a blessing and a challenge.
“I did not have much practical training at the university,” he said. “We didn’t have the necessary equipment to practice, so most of my education was based in theory. But I had heard that LDSBC was a very practical school where I could obtain hands-on IT skills.”
At first, however, Mario didn’t think he would be accepted to LDSBC. “When studying at the BYU English Language Center, I was told the college would not take students who already had a degree,” he said. “I was disappointed, but when I prayed about it I felt very strongly that I needed to be there.”
Mario got accepted by signing up for evening courses. He was surprised to find out he qualified for a half-tuition, evening-school scholarship. But since international students can’t work off campus, money was still a problem.
“My biggest challenge was not having a job during the first semester,” said Mario. “Another challenge was my need to take public transportation after classes got out at 10:00 p.m. I took TRAX to the Murray Station but had to walk 30 minutes from there as the buses had stopped running. Walking in an unfamiliar city in the dark night was a little scary.”
In spite of Mario’s challenges, he tried to remain positive. “I was very grateful to my Heavenly Father,” he said, “because I had an opportunity that anyone in El Salvador would love to have—to study at an LDS institution. So I told myself, ‘This is an opportunity Heavenly Father is giving me.’ I just had to endure and be patient.”
One blessing that touched him deeply was the support he received from professors. “They did everything they could to create a culture that fosters the Spirit—something much different than I experienced back home,” said Mario. “In El Salvador, university students did not have a close relationship with professors. But at LDSBC, I found that professors wanted me to succeed and would do everything they could to help me. It is a great blessing to combine secular education and gospel teachings.”
Mario also got engaged that first semester. “I met my future wife, Marisa, at the BYU English Language Center,” said Mario. “But we didn’t start dating until I finished the English program. She knew I was interested, but she just ignored me until I was done. Our relationship motivated me to work harder and find a job.”
The job offer came just one week before Mario and Marisa were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. “I was studying in the library when I got a call from the LDS Global Service Center,” said Mario. “The hiring supervisor had not even finished saying that he wanted to hire me when I started thanking Heavenly Father in Spanish. The supervisor said, ‘So I guess that is a yes?’
“My IT classes at LDSBC helped me get that job,” said Mario. “I had learned networking, operating systems, accounting and personal finance. My first assignment at the GSC was helping bishoprics, branch and stake presidencies with financial problems. Later on, I moved to the IT team, where I used knowledge acquired at the BC to troubleshoot hardware, printers and software problems.”
After Mario completed two semesters, he took a break and worked for two years while still pursuing his studies. He then prepared to take the GMAT and TOEFL. When he was ready, he applied for the Executive Masters of Public Administration program at the BYU-Salt Lake Center. He was accepted and later graduated in August 2017.
“LDSBC helped prepare me for my master’s program,” said Mario. “For example, I took an accounting class that was a very solid foundation for my accounting class at BYU. Some of my classmates were struggling, but I felt so blessed and was able to earn an ‘A’ grade.”
Mario hopes to use his education to help others gain education and the job opportunities that follow. “Serving others is what makes me come alive,” said Mario. “I would work hard to make sure that others received fair treatment and the help they deserved.”
His interest extends beyond his boundaries here. “I hope to find a job with a non-profit organization that helps people in third-world countries gain access to better education,” he said. “People could learn English and technical/practical education. They would then have better tools to obtain a better job like I did.”