Ten years ago, Bryan Lizano was a fifth-grade boy in Costa Rica, carefully watching a group of Baylor School of Education students completing mission work at Santa Elena School. He noticed how different these Baylor students were. It wasn’t just their accents and the slang they used. It was all the knowledge they shared about a university they loved. Lizano, a Nicaraguan refugee, liked the image of Baylor they showed by their service projects — painting the school’s walls, teaching, and developing relationships with the students.
As the idea of Baylor became more vivid each year the students came back, Lizano realized he wanted to become a Baylor student himself. Through support from Baylor students and professors, a dream became reality for Lizano, a freshman interested in studying computer sciences and the first graduate of his technical high school to attend a university in the U.S., with a full tuition scholarship to Baylor.
“Because we’ve know Bryan so long from the trips, he was always an active part of our activities; when he got here, it felt like he had already been a part of the Baylor family for years,” said Dr. Trena Wilkerson, professor in the School of Education. “Our Costa Rica mission students helped him to understand what Baylor is and what we stand for. They saw what a tremendous young man he is.”
Even with a scholarship, there were hurdles along Lizano’s long journey. But he was dedicated to getting to Baylor, as were three Baylor faculty: Dr. Randy Wood and Dr. Trena Wilkerson from the School of Education, along with Dr. Debra Burleson from the Hankamer School of Business. Although he was one of the top 25 students in his country, there was still the challenge of gaining Costa Rican citizenship, mastering his English proficiency, paying the $800 SAT fees, and finding funding for room and board.
During the three years after Lizano graduated from high school, he worked two internships and spent a few months traveling to Nicaragua and back to carefully explain why he was changing his citizenship and then completing the Costa Rican citizenship requirements. He enrolled in several extra English courses, studying diligently through all these challenges that stood between him and Baylor.
“When I worked at my internship, I woke up at 4 a.m. and rode on a bus for hours,” Lizano said. “People on the bus always asked about the pile of books I carried. They were English and SAT books. These were books Dr. Wood gave me and books I found at the library. I studied on the way there and back every day.”
At the same time, Lizano’s Baylor faculty team back in Waco was setting up a GoFundMe to collect supporters willing to donate towards the extra costs of college.
Wood said, “We had to figure out the extra funds once we got through all those issues, he was accepted to Baylor, and received the tuition scholarship. I kept saying all summer, I know we’ll get the money for fall, but in my heart, I was scared. Nonetheless, it happened. Donors from all over the state have helped to raise thousands. Friends, professors, students — everyone who hears his story wants to be a part of it.”
In early August, the last payment was made for Lizano’s fall 2018 term. The next step is gathering the funds for spring. Because Lizano’s story is remarkable, his friends and supporters have no doubt the community will continue to support him, Dr. Burleson said.
“It was not scary for me,” Lizano said. “I wanted to know Baylor. Talking about it didn’t scare me. I was not scared about something I wanted. I thought, ‘Is it possible to go to the United States?’ But that was not a fear. I had a lot of doubts, but I did not doubt myself. I doubted the opportunity. It is not something easy to get. But I am here now.”
If you would like to make contributions to Bryan Lizano’s time at Baylor, donations can be dropped off at Baylor’s Cashier’s Office in the Clifton Robinson Tower.
-By Cameron Bocanegra
ABOUT BAYLOR SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
Founded in 1919, Baylor School of Education ranks among the nation’s top 20 education schools located at private universities. The School’s research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.