Dennis Villeda, ‘19Dennis Villeda entered the foster care system at a young age. It proved to be an emotional roller coaster until his late teens.  

Rising Above: Dennis Villeda, ‘19

Mon Jun 22, 2020 at 08:36 AM

Dennis Villeda, ‘19Dennis Villeda entered the foster care system at a young age. It proved to be an emotional roller coaster until his late teens. The times of stability were short lived, while the “dark” times were plentiful. But somehow, Dennis rose above his difficult past and emerged as a pillar of positive thought and energy. 

“I won’t let my past determine my future,” says Dennis. “Just because people gave up on me, I didn’t give up on myself. I’m not what they said about me. I’ve gotten such strong support at BRCC through the Great Expectations program.”

The Great Expectations program helps “Virginia’s foster youth complete high school, gain access to a community college education, and transition successfully to living independently.”

Partly because of his childhood experiences in foster care, Dennis chose the Human Services program at BRCC, and was recently accepted at JMU where he’ll start in the fall. “After a couple of Human Services classes, I really knew that’s what I wanted to do. Students in the social work program are a close-knit group. I was able to make a lot of friends here, and some of those will now be at JMU.”

One of the highlights of the Human Services program was an internship with On the Road Collaborative in Harrisonburg, which eventually led to a job that he plans to continue (along with two other jobs) while at JMU. He loved working with middle school students in an afterschool program.

“It was really creating the impact that I wanted,” Dennis says. “I know that middle school is such a crucial time in a kid’s life. I like helping them with coping skills in times of stress. I can be an anchor of support.”

Last June, Dennis was featured in an article about the Great Expectations program that appeared in Insight into Diversity magazine.

Dennis chose BRCC in part for financial reasons, but also because his older sister had positive experiences in the nursing program. “Her experiences guided, motivated, and inspired me,” he says.

Wise beyond his years, Dennis lives by a couple of familiar sayings while always looking to the future: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” and “play the hand you’re dealt.”

“I’m giving back, not looking back. I’m blessed to have what’s in front of me,” he says.