One’s personal motivation is unique. Although it is common to become fascinated in achieving ambitions, Mabel Muñoz shows the best way to accomplish them is to establish goals and purposely follow through with a plan.

For Muñoz, that dedication has her on the cusp of graduation and a job with Helio Health in Syracuse, as a case manager for those working through mental health and addiction issues.

Muñoz, a 22-year-old senior at SUNY Oswego, had a plan before she arrived at college. The Queens native, who has lived in the same apartment since she was born, has always set goals for herself, even at a young age. By the time Muñoz decided which high school to attend she knew she wanted to go to “The City.” She loved Manhattan and wanted the chance to attend school there.

This passion became a reality when she was able to attend the highly rated public high school of Manhattan/Hunter Science High School. At 14, she had to endure some sacrifices while going to school in Manhattan. Muñoz had to commute one-way for an hour on a train, with the daily probable circumstance of finding alternate routes if her train was delayed. 

“I got to be independent by taking the train and learning how to use the train,” Muñoz said.

Her independence did not stop there; during her sophomore year she started working for a retail store in Manhattan, where she would work a total of 20 hours per week. This was a personal decision that Muñoz made because she wanted to assist her mom with the household finances. She revealed how this became a drawback while in school because she felt like a lone wolf by always being busy. Some days she was very tired and had to learn to maximize her time, which often meant having difficulty keeping friendships due to her academic and employment obligations.

Muñoz’s diligent effort to her studies paid off during her senior year. She was able to receive a full scholarship to Hunter College in Manhattan, which is affiliated with her high school. Even though she was offered an exceptional award of free tuition, Muñoz had other plans.

“I did not want to stay in the City," Muñoz said. "I looked at colleges in Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and two state schools.”

Exploring Oswego

Her journey began when she started her first day at SUNY Oswego. She was undeclared major, yet she had an interest in biology. Once she took a general studies class and had a career and major exploration course, she soon discovered her major would be wellness management with an emphasis on physical therapy.

“What I like about the wellness management major is that it is so broad and offers a lot of different career opportunities,” she expressed.

Muñoz knew she was quiet and shy entering her freshmen year, and getting involved on campus would become a catalyst for her to become active. She earned the position of Laker Leader through the Orientation Office, which led to other positions on campus including desk attendant in a residence hall and an intern for the Dean of Students Office.

Outside of college, Muñoz grew even larger wings and had an opportunity to be a camp counselor for one summer at Camp Fiver in Poolville in the beautiful hills of Madison County. Camp Fiver is near and dear to her heart. She was a camper for 10 years and also frequently visited their headquarters in New York City. The organization known as Fiver Children’s Foundation helps children from lower-income neighborhoods and supports them through every stage of their life. They were vital in helping Muñoz understand the process of making contacts, applying for aid, and completing college applications and essays.

Focusing on her college studies, she put her major to the test and had an internship with physical therapist Robert Berkley during her sophomore year. While she was at the physical therapist office she discovered her goal had changed.

“Great environment and learning experience at the office," Muñoz said. "I was able to do a student observation, while included diagnoses, stretches and exercises. It was a small practice and I knew I did not want that. I then changed my focus to hospital administration. I wanted to do something bigger and work at a hospital. I wanted to be in charge and make things happen.” 

With her desire to work and lead for a larger entity, she applied for an internship at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse for her last semester at college. She currently enjoys the internship and said she learns something new every time she is at the hospital. Interacting with the chief administration officer and networking with other personnel has given her a firm foundation in her future pursuits.

Muñoz’s journey has had some notable curves, but every bend in the road has brought her personal and academic fulfillment. With her December graduation approaching, she reflects on some notable people who have made her journey a blessing. One person in particular is Dan Roberts, who has been with her through virtually every step since Muñoz arrived to campus her first semester. He was her GST 100 professor, academic advisor, orientation director and supervisor at the Dean of Students Office.  

“Dan has helped me in every step of my time at SUNY Oswego, and he has stayed true to himself and shown to be trustworthy,” Muñoz said.

Another person who has helped Muñoz reach her potential is Mary Lee Dinski, camp director at Camp Fiver. Fiver Children’s Foundation has become Muñoz’s extended family over the past 12 years. The organization helped guide her through her academic and social successes. Dinski specifically assisted Muñoz in making connections and conducting phone interviews, arranging job interviews, networking and providing professional development opportunities. 

Every step that Muñoz has taken since she stepped off that train in Manhattan to start her first day of ninth grade has signified her ability to set goals and pursue her interests. It may have been fearful at times, but her determination to ask questions and seek more out of life overshadowed any uncertainty.

This story, written by Kelly Perkins, first appeared in Campus Life News.