“In the back of my mind, I am always thinking of moving forward and thinking of ways to make that possible. The California Community Colleges made this possible.”

From Port-De-Paix, Haiti, Vladimir Loubens Romilus, 22, has a passion for architecture and graphic design. An international student at Bakersfield College (BC), Vladimir is “going to school to be an architect but there's also so much more I want to do with that. I always say, ‘I want to build homes as much as houses’…the growth in a home is growth within our future generation…I want to bring to Haiti something more beyond just a building.”

Vladmir aspires to help Haiti in every way possible, beginning with sustaining and rebuilding the historical value and beauty of the Haitian buildings and structures. Many were destroyed during the natural disasters that took place in the area.

 “I am very passionate towards and dedicated to bringing education to Haiti, including providing access to spaces for schooling, bringing in others to teach various skill sets to students, establishing educational workshops for students, and providing access to books and internet, such as through the construction of a library. There is a lot of thinking going into this.”

His passion bloomed when approached by a local pastor with an opportunity to become a teacher at Sonlight Academy of Port-De-Paix, Haiti, an English immersion Christian school serving some of the poorest to the wealthiest of Haitian children. From a modest beginning of just four students, the academy has grown into a full-sized school with an enrollment of over 360 students.

During his journey back to Haiti, however, Vladmir faced a few trials, such as difficulties with obtaining a travel visa and an unexpected experience with appendicitis. Such experiences crucially impacted him, as well as his entire family, including his mother, who are dependent upon each other for various tasks and duties.

“Your situation and consequences are not the same as others who are from the States. As an international student, I have had to find ways to combat language barriers…maintain my GPA while trying to support myself financially, as international students are not allowed to work in the states.”

Financial literacy, time differences and living situations are other top difficulties identified by Vladimir.

Planning to graduate from BC with an associate degree in architecture and a minor in graphic design, Vladimir reflected his gratitude towards BC for providing such opportunities for experience, even as an international student. He can be found incredibly involved with the campus community as a peer mentor, a math tutor, a mentor with the BC counseling and guidance department, a technical support associate at the Student Renegade Hub and a secretary for the BC International Student Office.

“These positions were best because they worked with my schedule. I would encourage students to get a job on campus, as they are usually flexible with your schedule, understanding when it comes to midterms, and understanding of your situation. That is a blessing and especially helpful when you do not have family here to help you or to turn to for questions.”

Vladimir shares that he has enjoyed his time with his professors the most. “They want to be a part of the student’s life and help them move forward in forming their career. The professors are great for connecting you with others in the field. BFC faculty and staff have been very supportive in helping me as an international student.”

Vladimir also recalls visiting the architecture museums and monumental structures in Los Angeles, as a few of his most valuable experiences while attending a California community college.

Combining his career goals and interests, Vladimir is also currently volunteering with Hope and Happiness Community Empowerment, where he works with others his age to raise funds to send to the youth in Haiti. He also is the current president for OneClick Productions, a media, graphic design and photography business.

“I want to also help others in Haiti using my skills in graphic design. Moving forward, one of my main goals is to educate the youth, as they are our future…give them hope…provide resources and spaces for education for them to physically and mentally gain skill sets and knowledge.” He also clarifies his mission in “improving the culture” of Haiti: “Improving the culture doesn’t mean taking away traditions of one culture and replacing with another. It means enhancing the culture.”

Reflecting on his educational and career journey with California community colleges, Vladimir provides advice to prospective students: “Be hard on yourself but at the same time don’t get down on yourself. It takes a lot to hold on and balance everything, especially with everything going on. It takes time to get a handle on things that you have never done before… Remember what you have conquered.”