Breaking Molds for a Better Tomorrow


At the age of 32, international student Damian Barrios Saavedra took a leap of faith and moved from his home in Costa Rica to the United States to begin his dream of earning an education.

“Starting college at my age is something often referred to as non-traditional, but none of us is a ‘traditional’ individual,” said Saavedra. “We all break molds, push forward, work toward a brighter future and use our imagination and talents to create solutions for todays and tomorrow’s problems, together as a community.”

Saavedra helped his sister move to Utah and discovered this is where he wanted to live. After researching several state colleges and universities, Saavedra found SLCC to be very supportive, especially for international students.

“SLCC took me in as family,” said Saavedra. “From working with the amazing team from International Student Services to everyone who helped me at the STEM Learning Center, the people at SLCC have been there for me every step of the way.”

At the peak of the pandemic in 2020, Saavedra was on an airplane to Salt Lake City, Utah, to start his new life and begin his educational journey. However, having enough money to pay for college was soon becoming a challenge.

“As an international student, paying for tuition can be stressful,” said Saavedra. “I was paying for everything out of pocket, maxing out my credit cards and worrying that I wasn’t going to be able to continue my education.”

Saavedra was awarded with the Jerry Taylor Endowed Scholarship in September 2021. The scholarship is designed to support second year SLCC students who have demonstrated high academic performance in response to a major challenge in life.

“This scholarship has been a blessing without measure,” said Saavedra. “It has allowed me to pay for my tuition when I had little to no resources to stay in school. I’ve been able to maintain a 3.7 GPA and push every limit that I once thought I could never do. For that, I will be forever grateful.”

Saavedra received a certificate of completion in general education from SLCC in 2022. He plans to transfer to the University of Utah and earn a bachelor’s degree in business with a specialization in operations and supply chain management.

“I want to create products and services that improve the way we work and do everyday tasks,” said Saavedra. “I want to bring Costa Rica and the United States, two cultures that have a history of accomplishing incredible things, closer together through talent, innovation and collaboration by working side-by-side. That is my dream.”