2024 DREAM Scholar Patricio Tinoco Strives To Elevate First-Gen Latino Students


A leader among students

Madison College student Patricio Tinoco aims to help people suffering from dementia. The inspiration came when he volunteered at Agrace Hospice and saw the sadness people had after visiting their loved ones.

“I had to do something, you know, be more proactive. That’s what I want to do—biochemistry—and help research that specific area of memory disease.” Tinoco says.

Tinoco’s drive and ambition were honored this month as a 2024 Dream Scholar.

One of eight selected nationwide, Tinoco networked and learned at the DREAM 2024 convention Feb. 19-22 in Orlando, Florida. Most importantly, he wanted to learn leadership skills.

“What I really want to do is be a mentor and advocate, especially for those like me—first-gen Latinos,” Tinoco says.

2024 DREAM Scholars honoree Patricio Tinoco
“What I really want to do is be a mentor and advocate, especially for those like me—first-gen Latinos."
Patricio Tinoco
Madison College student and 2024 DREAM Scholars honoree

Achieving the Dream

Education wasn’t a big deal for Tinoco until he enrolled in the alternative Capital High School. Surprised by his elevated classroom progress, Tinoco asked his advisors for more.

“I wanted to challenge myself, so they connected me with the Gateway to College program,” Tinoco remembers. “I was earning college credit and high school diploma credits at the same time.”

Gateway to College was just the springboard Tinoco needed to brush up on some remedial learning, elevate skills of interest, and encompass him in a supportive mentoring environment.

Renuka Gunawardena, Madison College Gateway to College Support Advisor, suggested Tinoco volunteer at Agrace Hospice, where he found the inspiration to be a biochemist. She also gently nudged him to apply for the DREAM Scholar, and despite what Tinoco calls a “nerve-wracking” experience of multiple interviews, he is thrilled for the final accomplishment.

“I called Renuka when I got the news that I was a DREAM Scholar. It was great hearing her voice on the other line filled with joy.” Tinoco remembers.

Achieving the Dream’s DREAM Scholars program allows community college students to grow into leaders and culminates into an annual DREAM Conference, like the one Tinoco attended in Orlando this February.

Networking with the other DREAM Scholars through the U.S. has been a highlight for Tinoco. “It’s really a great group,” Tinoco says. “It’s great to figure out what they’re doing at their community colleges. And it’s not just a one-time thing. It is a lifetime thing: a group of people you stick with.”

Be a Leader

Leveraging the skills Tinoco is learning as a DREAM Scholar motivates him to help others. That means advocating for his students as a supplemental instructor tutor.

“I can have an initiative and reach out to the instructor and be like, ‘Hey, this is something we can do,’” Tinoco says.

Another of Tinoco’s goals is to bring focus to first-generation Latino students. He says it’s important to see this community thrive and serve as role models in the mid and upper levels of higher education. Being part of the DREAM Scholar initiative will help Tinoco with that.

The Achieving the Dream’s DREAM Scholar Conference develops its longstanding belief that community colleges, with their access to learning and social mobility, help eliminate inequities in students’ educational and workforce outcomes. Tinoco sees the power of the opportunity that the DREAM Scholar honor has given him.

“I’m going to take what I learned at the conference and return to Madison College and help improve it in any way I can.”

Madison College student Patricio Tinoco poses at the Kennedy Space Center while at the DREAM Scholar conference in Florida.
Madison College student Patricio Tinoco at the Kennedy Space Center.


Q and A with Patricio Tinoco on the Achieving the Dream’s Dream 2024 Conference Experience

What was the most thrilling part of the conference?

There is two parts. Getting the opportunity to tell my story in front of a room full of 2,300 people and experiencing the overwhelming support they offered me. After telling my story on stage I had some people talk to me about how similar our journeys were and that made me feel great knowing I wasn’t the only one who is and has gone through similar experiences.

The second part would be having the opportunity to meet delegates from South Africa and New Zealand. Listening and relating to similar virtues, experiences, and most importantly struggle. I was surprised by how similar struggle for the Hispanic community and the South African community. Speaking to Professor Nicole de Wet-Billings gave me great insight into what she is battling in her community.

How has your perspective on your leadership skills changed?

It hasn’t really changed; it further reinforced my philosophy on the importance of relationship building. Networking at the conference was key for me, I saw a lot of people that looked intimidating, but taking that risk and going up to talk to them about their work, passion, really gave me an idea of what people in the room I needed to make connections with.  

What connection you made at the conference will be most important in your future endeavors?

I had the opportunity to meet some Madison College deans, along with Madison College President Dr. Jack Daniels. Speaking to them inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in biochemistry and come back to Madison College as an instructor for chemistry/ biology. These connections are the most important for my future endeavors.

Did you get a chance to have a little fun in Florida?

Yes, the Achieving The Dream team arranged daily dinners for us at some pretty fancy restaurants. They also took all of us to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the Hollywood Disney Park. While at the Kennedy Space Center we also got to see a rocket take off, which I did record.  

What tips do you have for Madison College students who want to apply for the DREAM Scholar program?

Applying to DREAM Scholars program was rigorous, so be as prepared as possible and do research on the values that Achieving The Dream believes in. I would also say, if possible, meet with the ATD coach from the college (Ali) they will provide much more insight on what Achieving the Dream is all about; furthermore, any faculty that has attended the conference.