Most College of the Mainland students commute fewer than 15 miles to class. Exchange student Omar Vela traveled more than 1,000 miles to study at COM as a participant in the U.S. Department of Education North American Mobility Program. An engineering student from Veracruz, Mexico, Vela is studying English, management and AutoCAD, a software program used in computer-aided design and drafting.
“I like all my classes the best,” Vela said. “I like to study so much, especially math.”
Between classes, he’s meeting other students from all walks of life.
“In this country, there are many different cultures. I have some new friends,” said Vela.
Funded by a federal grant, North American Mobility Program allows students to acquire language skills, exposure to other cultures and work-related experience in North America.
Professor Luis Sabido facilitates the program at COM and made arrangements for Vela to come. After learning his living expenses were not covered, Sabido alerted faculty and staff to Vela’s situation, and many stepped in to help. Mr. C's Deli and Bistro, the COM cafeteria provided a meal card, and COMPeers, a voluntary employee group, raised funds and donated a gift card. Other staff allowed him to borrow textbooks for class.
“Professor Sabido helped me so much. I am really thankful for him,” said Vela.

Despite the setbacks, Vela is continuing to thrive at COM.
“He’s very smart, gets very good grades,” said Sabido.

 Susan LeMaster, Vela’s reading instructor, also helps tutor him outside of class and is impressed with his progress.

“He’s learned a lot. He’s a hard worker,” said LeMaster.

Vela will graduate from his college one semester after he returns to his school. He would like to pursue further studies in the U.S., perhaps graduate school, and this semester is a step toward that goal.
“I have a dream and I want to study here in the future,” he said.