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Digging Deeper: Waubonsee Student Arroyo Balances Business, Academic Performance to Achieve Student Success

Student Success: Featured Student Osvaldo "Ozzie' Arroyo spent many days monitoring various aspects of the Blackberry Creek and adjacent wetlands near Waubonsee's Sugar Grove Campus as part of a submission to the 2014 Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference's STEM Poster Competition.

Osvaldo Arroyo knows, for some college students, mastering the art of managing their time, of striking that proper balance between the demands of their academic course work and the pull of other personal responsibilities and desires, can always remain elusive.

For Arroyo, who came to Waubonsee Community College years after starting his own business, those time management skills came already honed before he ever set foot on campus.

And those skills have proven to be a lifesaver for the tireless man known as “Ozzie,” as he has excelled as a geology student at Waubonsee, while continuing to operate and grow his heating and air conditioning company, A&O Heating and Air Conditioning.

“That’s my secret,” said Arroyo, 31, of Aurora. “That’s how I do so well. I don’t procrastinate. I have to plan ahead, and start early, with everything.”

“Or I’m in big, big trouble,” he added with a laugh.

For his commitment to education, excellence both inside and outside the classroom, and the example in diligence and focus he sets to his classmates and others around him, Waubonsee is pleased to recognize Osvaldo “Ozzie” Arroyo as the college’s Student Success: Featured Student for the month of September.

Years ago, as he laid plans to launch his business, Arroyo likely would not have guessed, a little more than a decade later, he would have spent months watching the water in the marsh and creek bordering Waubonsee’s Sugar Grove Campus in southwestern Kane County.

Yet about a year after completing that project, Arroyo can see himself doing nothing but similar work long into his future.

“I don’t know where this is going to lead me yet,” he said. “But I know this is what I want to do.”

Arroyo, who came to Aurora as a child after his family emigrated from Mexico, first was exposed to higher education when he earned a certificate in heating, ventilation and air conditioning from Waubonsee following his graduation from high school in 2001.
Credentials in hand, Arroyo went to work for a HVAC company in Yorkville before eventually launching his business, partnering with a friend in 2005.

But while the business has kept him hopping, there are a number of slow periods, Arroyo said. In those times he would often find himself drawn to other interests, particularly related to science.

During one such slow period in his business, Arroyo took a part-time job at a local greenhouse and discovered he enjoyed working with plants.

That, in turn, sparked interest in learning more about the Earth and ecosystems, and provoked speculation about potentially turning his newfound interests into a new career.

And two years ago, that desire drew him back to Waubonsee.

After taking a number of science courses, investigating various potential career options, and speaking with science instructors and academic advisors at Waubonsee, Arroyo said he ultimately has been drawn to geology.

“There are a lot of things that are interesting to me about the Earth and how it works,” he said. “It’s such a broad field.”

Plus, he said, the abundance of career options, from work in the petroleum industry to environmental geology, certainly enhances the attraction to the field.

To advance his knowledge and demonstrate his potential, Arroyo participated in the 2014 Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference STEM Poster Competition, submitting research materials on the hydrogeology of the wetlands bordering Blackberry Creek near Waubonsee’s Sugar Grove Campus.

While he described much of the work as “tedious,” Arroyo said the project stands as the highlight of his time at Waubonsee, to date.

“It was a lot of how science really works, you know?” he said. “I’d be out there, collecting water samples, measuring the creek, the water table, looking at topographic maps, observing how the wetlands influenced the environment all around them. It really opened my eyes to a lot of new things.”

Arroyo’s submission placed third in the Physics/Earth Science/Mathematics/Computers category at the contest, judged April 25.

Now about one semester from graduating with an associate degree, Arroyo plans to transfer to Northern Illinois University to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and then, perhaps, yet more advanced degrees.

“I like learning all the time,” he said. “I want to continue with my education as far as I can.”

Arroyo, who is married, also plans to continue operating his business for as long as he can, hoping it can continue to pay the bills until he can land his first paying job in geology.

Arroyo said his road to this point has not always been easy, but it has been made possible by Waubonsee’s affordable tuition, the aid of his instructors and counselors, the encouragement and support of his wife, and his own developed time management skills and strategies.

“There are times where it’s tough, I’m not going to lie,” said Arroyo. “But at Waubonsee, it’s a great place to start, to learn about yourself, what you enjoy doing – and what you can do with that.”