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First Generation Student Rachel Bejarano Realizes her Dream to Combine Art with Medicine to Help Others

Rachel BejaranoArmed with determination, a penchant for academic excellence and a hefty dose of perfectionism, soccer athlete and artist Rachel Bejarano plans to graduate in May 2023 from the University of St. Thomas-Houston earning a B.A. in Studio Arts with a concentration in life drawing.

First-generation student Bejarano will walk across the stage with her peers on Saturday, May 13, at 4 p.m., at Toyota Center downtown. In addition to earning her diploma, her life drawing artwork captured the attention of two doctors at the Texas Medical Center, which landed her a job in her dream career field.

From Doodler to Artist

Coming from a family of "doodlers," Bejarano wanted to become an artist. Then in ninth grade, after watching an episode of "How It’s Made" for facial prosthetics in the field of anaplastology – the result of using art in medicine to provide facial prosthetics for the injured or ill – Bejarano knew it was her life's work.

"I fell in love with the thought of being able to help individuals regain their self-confidence and quality of life through facial prosthetics," she said.

Bejarano researched her career path and contacted Johns Hopkins University, which offers a graduate program in anaplastology. To realize her dream, she first needed to earn a Studio Arts degree with some biology, anatomy and physiology classes. She entertained enrolling at several colleges and had trouble deciding until she met a UST soccer coach.

Bejarano artworkUST's Personalized Attention and Partnerships Won Her Over

 "When Coach Nick Barjaktarevic offered for me to keep the player number I had since I began competitive soccer, I felt like this was God pushing me in the direction of UST!” Bejarano said. "Once I learned that the Glassell School of Art instructors taught UST art classes, I knew St. Thomas was the right choice."

Bejarano lived at the Guinan Residence Hall, even though she was from the Houston area, because of the length of her commute.

"The cost of residing at Guinan Hall was not expensive compared to other colleges’ dorm costs," she said. "I like that there was a bathroom in my room, and that was not the case at any other colleges I had visited. I felt it was also easier to make friends while living on campus."

Bejarano's Artwork is noticed by two Texas Medical Center Doctors

While waiting for Johns Hopkins' decision as to whether she was accepted into the graduate program, a doctor from Baylor College of Medicine and Associate Director from Ben Taub Hospital noticed her artwork and spread the word. Soon she had interviews with two separate ocular prosthetic facilities.

Though she did not get into the Johns Hopkins program, she will choose from two great opportunities — an apprenticeship or internship with one of the ocular prosthetic facilities as she continues to pursue her dream.

"I am very thankful and excited to be able to fulfill my dream," she said.

UST's Scholarship Donors were the Wind Beneath her Wings

As the first person in her family to acquire a bachelor's degree, Bejarano knew in her heart that the reason she was graduating summa cum laude was the scholarships and grants.

"Without scholarships and grants, I would have had to work in addition to attending classes, Bejarano said. "It is for this reason that I would like to say that I will endeavor to make each of the organizations that blessed me with scholarships proud of their investment in my future. Mainly, the University of St. Thomas for my four-year Achievement Scholarship, the Mendenhall Institute for my four-year scholarship, the Hamman Foundation for my four-year scholarship, and the Kilroy Foundation for my four-year scholarship. Each of these organizations has invested in my future every semester for the past four years, and I would like to recognize and thank them wholeheartedly!"