January 23, 2022

Nathan Peña: 17-year-old student graduates with associate degree


This archived article was written by: Stacey Graven

Nathan Peña, a USU Eastern sophomore, is 17 and receiving his associate degree on April 30. Born in Miami, raised in Saudi Arabia and being Filipino provides Peña with a background quite different and diverse than those in the states.
“Being born in the states was a coincidental blessing in disguise,” he said. His parents were visiting the states when his mother became sick. Doctors advised her to not travel. This allowed him the chance of being a U.S. citizen.
At a young age, his parents instilled in him the goodness of the states and the culture. For example, he was introduced to cartoons like Tom and Jerry as well as DC/Marvel, Harry Potter and Star Wars.
Before Peña attended kindergarten, his parents taught him how to read and write. Being bored in the class where he already knew the material, he tested out of kindergarten and moved onto first grade where he took another test, moving to second grade. He said, “Whatever it takes,” to learn and continue in school, so be it.
As he progressed through school, Peña realized his life in school had become a, “series of AP’s and A’s.” He joined many school clubs that occupied lots of his time, but never was distracted from his studies. He was in a school where boys and girls attended classes in different buildings.
When high school came, things seemed to change. He said, “I came to think that knowing things was taboo.” With the popularity contest of high school and trying to fit in, his grades dropped a little. Realization hit soon thereafter.
Peña said, “I got to the point that I didn’t care what anyone else thought and realized that high school isn’t life.” The same can be said of college.
When his senior year came around, “the term college was on everyone’s minds.” His father helped him find a college that suited him. His father suggested USU and that’s when they found the USU Eastern extension. The only question that arose then was, “whether it would be Blanding or Price.”
When he chose Price, Peña chose a few of his favorite things about being here. He immediately liked the mountains and recognized how “everyone seems friendly in Utah. It’s a different feeling and vibe than other states.” That’s something he noticed right away. Everyone looks for a friend in college and he found and made many friends.
He said, “College is really not as scary as it first seems. I’ve come to learn how to pass through mistakes and hurdles. There is always that glimmer of hope.” Even though everyone experiences their own hurdles, there are ways to overcome them.
Reaching the end of his last semester at Eastern, Peña is making plans for the future. His, “main goal is to get into law school.” He’ll continue in history and business, then take time for an LDS mission. When he comes back, he hopes to enter BYU.
He said, “there are so many opportunities in the states. You can’t deny the possibility of a better future for you. The future isn’t as bleak as it seems.”

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