When Leo Frietas was 17 years old, he found out he didn’t have the necessary credentials as a United States citizen to attend college. A native of Canada, Frietas spent most of his life going back to his home country every couple of years to renew his visa – but the attacks on September 11, 2001 hindered progress on his citizenship status.
While the rest of his friends packed up their belongings and headed off to universities across the country, Frietas took a job with his family’s business.
“I remember feeling a whole slew of emotions, but I mostly felt stuck,” Frietas said. “And I remained stuck for 17 years. I went from a valid immigrant to being stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
Frietas’ fate turned around when he received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) at age 34. His full citizenship followed in 2020, and later that year he began pondering the idea of going back to school. Frietas was able to obtain an associate’s degree from Guilford Technical Community College without complete citizenship, but for a while he wondered whether he even needed to return to a classroom.
Perusing his options, Leo applied and was eventually accepted into UNC Greensboro and the Bryan School of Business and Economics in 2020.
“I made the move and decided I was worth the investment. Suddenly, I was 18 again and reliving moments I’d lost — going through the application process, checking my admission status updates and waiting for an acceptance letter,” Frietas said.
Now a senior Information Systems and Supply Chain Management (ISSCM) part-time student, Frietas is taking courses online while working full-time for a technology startup and raising two children.
Due to the flexibility of an online course schedule, Frietas said he’s able to work eight hours a day, have dinner with his family and settle in for the night to catch up on his coursework. The courses in the online ISSCM program are structured to have end-of-week assignment due dates to accommodate non-traditional students. Frietas also cited the empathy of the professors in the Bryan School for making his higher education journey possible.
While his college experience doesn’t resemble what he imagined as a teenager, Frietas takes it all in stride, excelling in his studies and even earning the ISSCM department’s Peter Dieckmann Endowed Scholarship during the 2021-2022 academic year.
“If I would have been able to enroll in a university in high school, I think I would’ve wasted the opportunity. Now as an adult, I have such an appreciation and this posture of humility toward it,” Frietas said.
Frietas plans to continue to take three to six credit hours each semester and graduate in spring of 2025 with a B.S. in Information Systems and Supply Chain Management with a concentration in Business Analytics.
“The journey I took to get here was tough, but worth it. For those on their own journeys — there is a brighter tomorrow and a brighter future ahead.”