San Jacinto College alumnus RJ Andrade didn't plan to attend a community college, but thanks to the pandemic, his course changed — something he wouldn't have any other way.
"I had plans to go straight to a four-year university but decided against it as the world began to shut down," he said. "My experience at San Jacinto College was amazing and will stay with me forever. Despite my first year on Zoom, I recognized that the professors cared about their students while challenging them to rise to the occasion when needed."
Andrade, a music major, began attending face-to-face classes a year after his enrollment, and he dove headfirst into the college community, taking full advantage of the support and opportunities available to him.
"I recognized how special the community was that San Jac built. There were resources everywhere to receive help with any situation imaginable," Andrade said. "It was comforting, especially after the pandemic scare, and put me in the best situation to succeed."
In the music program at the Central Campus, Andrade thrived and explored his musical interests.
"Through the small-classroom environment, I was provided the opportunity to try new things, such as composition, and explore who I was as a musician," he said.
A graduate of Sam Rayburn High School, Andrade did not always intend to pursue music. Initially more interested in baseball and football, he saw his dream of an athletic career fell apart after a foot injury in 2014.
"Initially, I was devastated that my sports career had completely halted, but it essentially forced me to practice my trumpet to avoid boredom," Andrade said. "I finally opened my ears and was exposed to so much great trumpet repertoire that I wanted to learn it for myself."
In fall 2023, Andrade transferred from San Jac to Texas Christian University as a member of the Horned Frog Marching Band. The transfer process wasn't easy, but Andrade says it was worth all the work.
"The transfer process was stressful, and I was at the edge of my seat every day," he said. "For a music major, it's a unique process compared to others. Not only did I have to get accepted to the transfer school, but I had to get accepted into the school of music via audition and interview."
After this rigorous experience, Andrade was accepted to TCU about two weeks before his transfer deadline.
"I managed to apply to eight universities," he said. "I worked on the audition repertoire, essays, meetings, and finding scholarships. Auditioning for eight universities was a fun experience because I got to explore each campus and grasp what each university wanted out of their students."
After TCU, Andrade plans to pursue teaching to help students like himself while always striving for excellence.
"I see myself as a student who wants to learn something new every day so I can achieve what is the best version of myself. It is a lofty goal, but I believe I can do it," Andrade said. "Even if my plans don't pan out the way I imagined, I think I'll be happy with having a positive impact on people's lives."