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When UNLV students return to campus in the fall and share stories of their summer exploits, senior psychology major Gorge Henriquez will have them all beat.
Henriquez introduced the president of the United States to the world – and a couple dozen national media reps – during an official White House visit to campus June 7.
President Barack Obama addressed rising student loan interest rates, something Henriquez knows a thing or two about. The Rancho High School graduate is the first in his family to complete high school, and, with the help of grants and loans, will soon be the first to finish college as well.
We asked Henriquez, who’s also a student worker in the Office of Diversity Initiatives, about the experience.
On being selected: It was pretty overwhelming. I was asked if I would be interested in putting my name on a list of potential candidates.
I got the call the day before saying I was picked, and was then asked if I wanted to do it. I said, “Are you kidding me?” I had half a day to write a speech to introduce the president of the United States. I had a lot of help from people on campus to make it just right. I felt like I was writing a paper.
His mind-set upon taking the stage: Honestly I was calm. I felt some nerves, but my mind was pretty clear. Nothing really hit me until I sat down. I realized I just met the president of the United States, and it was pretty cool. When he walked in, everything I wanted to ask went out the window. All I could think was to ask why he wanted to be president.
His biggest fear: I was afraid to trip. During the practice I tripped going up and down the stairs, and I really didn’t want that to happen at the event. If I can’t (walk) in front of 20 people, how can I do it in front of 2,000? So I wore different shoes.
Reaction from friends and family: The usual. A few notes of congratulations from old teachers. My mom, who was in the audience, was crying. She said how proud she was, but mostly cried. When I told her I was speaking, the first thing she said was, “I’ve got to get out of work.”
Right after the event I went to lunch, and a few students recognized me. On Friday I got a lot of stares at Starbucks from people who seemed to recognize me but they didn’t know where from.
On UNLV and student loans: UNLV is the best choice for me. It was the most logical choice to make sure I didn’t have to go through the difficulty my peers experience in paying for school. I qualified for a Pell Grant to pay for tuition; money to pay for transportation, books, and eating came from loans and work-study.
My mom did everything she could, but her check goes to pay rent and bills, not college. It’s scary to me if student loan interest goes up. I’m planning to go to grad school, so the least amount of debt I can get into during my undergrad, the better. I want to work with extreme cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome and schizophrenia. Once I have that experience, I want to move into my own practice.