Valentina Fandino

April 2020

Valentina Fandino, University of Florida, Graduated 2019

Major: Biology

Career Goals: My intention is to move from a community health setting approach to an individualized health approach by attending medical school and providing health services to vulnerable populations such as migrant and refugee communities locally and globally. Currently, I am working on a master’s in Public Health with Social and Behavioral Sciences Concentration.

Biggest surprise about the college experience: Our foundations and public systems have major deficiencies that for generations have excluded and disparaged multiple minority groups. It's not enough to passively learn and get a degree and then just get a job. It is our responsibility as the future of the world to pursue our passions and find ways to use that knowledge to improve and change institutions so that they are equitable for everyone, including our own planet.

Most challenging coursework in college: For actual coursework, I would say Organic Chemistry II (that's right folks, two semesters of organic chemistry). Some professors enjoy making life more difficult than necessary... Advanced Stereo-Chemistry and the Synthesis of Organic Compounds are really easy concepts that do not need to be made more complicated than they really are.

Accomplishment most proud of: I'd rather talk about how I've measured my accomplishments -- by understanding my own personal values (health and education are inalienable human rights), ceasing to compare myself to others (focusing on comparing myself with myself), and measuring what's hard to measure, your own personal and mental well-being, fulfillment, relationships. I have been able to apply myself to my work and 'accomplish' my desired goals. Sometimes we measure the wrong things -- Twitter followers, straight A's, trophies -- but these things don't necessarily translate to learning retention, self-improvement, and overall happiness. It was only when I started measuring the right things that I've been able to help start up and lead the only refugee and migrant dedicated organization on my college campus called Gators for Refugee Medical Relief (, which provides weekly educational and medical programs to refugees and migrants in Northern Florida 100% free of cost. Additionally, I've been honored with contributing to and improving evidence-based programs and services to on average 9,000 refugees internationally needing medical attention in over 8 refugee camps; provide guidance and genuine friendship to over 100 first generation Latinx college freshmen on my campus through PODEMOS (a mentorship program); work on emergency COVID-19 testing and swabbing for over 200 Floridian seniors daily with the Infectious Diseases and Global Health Department, as well as provide low-cost, open-source ventilators with the research departments on campus to hopefully be distributed to our 349 hospitals in the state of Florida very soon.

Can you provide any advice to our current Knights? Life isn't about how much you have, it's about how much you give. And trust me, it might not feel like it right now, but you have so much to give.

I paid for college with…: In undergrad I had Bright Futures and the Pell Grant that covered 100% of my tuition and expected cost of attendance (about $20,000 per year). In graduate school, I have the Dean's Academic Merit Scholarship which covers half of my tuition and books. The rest I am paying for with money I've saved up, my online teaching job, and a limited amount of the Stafford loan (unsubsidized loans for grad students).

Fondest memory from high school: I remember not listening to my professors and advisers as much as I should have reflecting back. They believed in me so much and tried to provide me with the right tools to be successful in college. A lot of the personal hardships I experienced through undergrad were because I didn't believe in myself. Listen to them, you can do this, you don't have to be perfect or the best to go to college and make a difference. You are you and that's enough. You can do whatever you set your mind to. Take advantage of their motivation and support because in college it can be incredibly competitive and if you aren't your own number one cheerleader, it's going to be so much harder to accomplish your goals, especially as a first-generation low socioeconomic minority student.

High School Graduation Date: June 1, 2015 – The Founding Class of Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy