The Right Choice


The College's 110th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16, was bittersweet for men's soccer Coach Adam Hildabrand, as three of his team's most valuable players crossed the stage and accepted their diplomas.

"They've all done well in school, although when they arrived on campus they came with the intention to play soccer," Hildabrand said. "Soccer was the hook for them, but they soon realized that they could get a great education while they were here. I've had the opportunity to watch them all mature, from high school kids to adults."

But Gianfranco Bravo, Raul Escobar (left) and Camilo Bermudez were connected by more than their desire to play soccer when they arrived as freshman four years earlier. The three men were all born in South America, moved to the United States at a young age and graduated from high schools in Southern Berkshire. They also were all paying for a major portion of their college education on their own.

Bermudez, originally from Columbia, took a year off before applying for college, saving the money he earned for college as he decided what direction his life would take.

"I decided to take a few classes at MCLA so I could play soccer - that's how it all started," Bermudez, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies, said. "I ended up liking MCLA's educational offerings so much, that it turned into a good thing. I also think paying for my own education made me more responsible. You don't skip too many classes when you know what each class costs."

As a commuter student from Pittsfield, he was often faced with the challenge of early practices and late games. There were plenty of times when he slept on a teammate's couch.

"I used to say to our players, 'If Camilo isn't complaining, then you can't complain'," Hildabrand said. "It was wonderful to see him embrace his education and realize that he didn't have to work construction jobs the rest of his life."

While on the soccer team, Bermudez formed fast friendships with Escobar and Bravo, who both earned bachelor's degrees in business administration.

"I grew up immensely in the last four years," Escobar, team co-captain, said. "For the first couple of years, I was a rebel and set in my ways. Then the coaches pulled me aside, sat me down, and said they wanted to make me a captain. It was a big responsibility and forced me to grow up quickly. You have to set a good example."

Originally from Venezuela, Escobar, who plans to attend law school within the next year, received several accolades as a student, including being named to the MASCAC All-Academic Team and All-Conference first team, along with earning multiple ALANA academic excellence awards and representing MCLA at a Congressional Breakfast for Higher Education Financing.

One thing all three teammates can agree on is that MCLA was the right choice for them.

Bravo, also a native of Venezuela, believes the College is one of the main reasons he plans to attend graduate school - a goal he said he may not even have considered had he attended a larger college.

"Having a good relationship with professors really helped, but, in general, MCLA and its soccer team made me mature," he said. "I grew up a lot and was able to figure out what it was I wanted to do in life. Going to school close to home was also beneficial. I lived on campus, but I could always get away to visit my family and get some home cooking."