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Featured Alumni – Summer 2017

Jonathan Bolaño ’05

Jonathan Bolaño (Saint Raphael Academy ’05) graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2011 with a B.S. in Computer Engineering and minor in Mathematics. “I chose engineering because I liked computers, liked math, and wanted a major where not many other people were,” he says. “I knew I would be competing for a job after graduation and that engineering was in demand.” Jonathan is currently employed as a Power Test Lead Engineer for the U.S. Navy. He previously worked for Electric Boat as a Software Engineer and a Shift Test Director aboard the company’s submarines.

“I like that my job offers a great work-life balance,” he says. “I get to work with a lot of very experienced people and learn things constantly. People at my job are very eager to teach and have great personalities. This makes it extremely easy to wake up for work in the morning and get through the day. I love my job.”

Jonathan also has a huge interest in dance. While he was earning his engineering degree, he created URI’s eXposure Multi-Cultural Dance Team & Organization, which is still in operation on campus today. “I not only was the founder and president, but I was also head choreographer and graphic designer and I assisted with many of the secretary, treasurer, and public relations jobs,” he says. “All of this helped mold me into the person I have become today. It helped me meet others with the same passion as mine. It helped me go through many growing pains as a leader that I don’t have to face as a young leader today. It taught me how to handle critical conversations, how to work with people from different walks of life, how to manage people effectively. We ran many events that required a lot of organization, delegation, and dedication.”

As an alumni of The College Crusade, Jonathan volunteers his time to speak to Crusaders about his education and career experiences. He appreciates his role as someone who can encourage youth. “Many kids don’t have role models or mentors to help keep them focused or to listen when times get rough,” he says. “I want to help them see this and spend less time worrying about what they can’t control and focus more on what they can achieve today so they can wake up a new improved version of who they were yesterday.”

He has a lot of advice for high school Crusaders starting college in the fall. Listen up!

  • Aim for the stars when picking a degree, and realize you have more potential than you ever thought you did.
  • Fight through college: if it were meant to be easy, you would just attend kindergarten again. Don’t give up, look for help if you need to, get a mentor.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. The negative ones will drag you down into their sink hole. Let them go, and keep your eyes focused on your goals.
  • College loans after graduation are no joke, so pay off your loans as you go. Be smart about financial aid packages, and APPLY APPLY APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS!
  • Enjoy college (smartly) the best you can, and get involved.
  • Take responsibility for yourself. You are the reason you succeed or fail, so don’t blame others. If you want something bad enough, you will make it work, end of story.

“Lastly,” he says, “I know most of what I wrote above sounds like a contradiction. How can you work, handle school, be involved, and still have fun, WHILE paying off school at the same time? Deal with your stress, cope with your stress, push forward. I’ve done it, I’ve seen others do it and more. If we can do it, you can do it. It’s just a matter of how bad you want it.”

No one would be surprised to learn that Jonathan fills his free time with lots of activities. “I dance, teach dance, run dance events, cook, own a house, hike, read, and am a father of a four-year-old,” he says. “My list goes on and on because I like to be involved in a multitude of things. I believe that the day you stop learning, laughing, having fun, and being active, is the day you get old.”


Jessica Russillo ’03

Jessica Russillo ’03 (Mount Pleasant High School) graduated from Rhode Island College in 2009 with a B.S. in Early Childhood/Special Education and a B.A. in Criminal Justice. She currently teaches first grade in the Providence Public Schools and previously taught in pre-K special education, regular kindergarten, and self-contained autism classrooms. “My mother was a teacher assistant for 20 years in a special education class,” Jessica says. “I saw the lives she positively affected and wanted to do the same thing. The reward of teaching is the students. They make it all worth it. To build relationships and know that you helped to make a difference in their world is what I enjoy most.”

Jessica had a unique experience as part of her training at RIC. She went to Australia to student teach. “There was a sign hanging in the computer lab with an emu on it, so I inquired,” she says. “It started with a 10-day tour of New Zealand. Once I arrived in Queensland, Australia, I took classes at James Cook University to learn about the history of the country and the culture of the indigenous people. This helped prepare me to work with the ESL population.” Jessica was in Australia for four months, and then she returned and did more student teaching in Pawtucket. “It was so interesting to learn how different cultures and countries look at education,” she says. “Overall it was an amazing experience that I never would have had if not for college.”

Jessica has great memories of being a Crusader. “I loved my experience as a Crusader,” she says. “I received waivers for college applications and was able to tour colleges I would never have been able to see. I was able to take PSAT and SAT prep classes, and I had someone in my corner rooting me on. It made a difference to have a counselor outside of your family and friends who was genuinely interested in your success.” Jessica’s College Crusade scholarship also made a difference. “It allowed me to complete a degree program without added stress or frustration from financial burdens that otherwise would have been there,” she says.

Jessica has an 11-year-old daughter and is very active in her church. She also volunteers in many ways and does home instruction for a boy who is too medically fragile to attend school.

Her advice for Crusaders starting college goes straight to the point: “Make sure that you treat this as a career and not an extension of high school. The stakes are much higher, and if you go in with a focused mindset you will increase your success.”

Featured Alumni