Army veteran of Iraq is Student of the Month at Merced College

Merced College's December Student of the Month, Gerardo Lozano, is described by one instructor as her "hero."Dr. Karen Fritz stated in her nomination, "If I had to choose my ‘hero,’ that person would be Gerardo Lozano, decorated Army infantryman and combat veteran."Gerardo is a very reserved and soft-spoken young man who has demonstrated exemplary leadership skill in his Principles of Management class."Lozano was born and reared in Merced, the first generation in his family to be born in the United States, according to a news release from the college. English was his second language and his parents' education didn’t exceed third grade. After graduating from high school where his classes were geared toward vocational training, Lozano knew that in order to make something of himself, he’d need to set goals."That is why joining the Army was the best thing I did after graduating from high school," he said.Lozano was trained for combat and warfare. At the age of 20, he was stationed in Friedberg, Germany. After two months his unit was deployed to Iraq where he spent 18 months in combat. After that first tour, he was sent back to Germany where he traveled in Europe with occasional trips back to Merced to visit his family.In 2005 his unit was activated and deployed back to Iraq for another 18 months. Lozano was honorably discharged in March 2007. After transitioning back into civilian life, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injury from his combat duties. Today, he’s learning skills to cope with these disorders.Before his military service, Lozano was a certified nurse assistant. When he first started Merced College he was pursuing a nursing career, but that all changed when he took a nutrition class. "I discovered my calling," he said. "Through a career in nutrition I feel I will be able to make a positive impact in people's lives. To me there is no greater cause than to help another human being."Lozano keeps busy as a single father of twin 11-year old daughters, while working full-time and attending classes, where he manages to maintain a 3.1 grade point average. He spends his leisure time practicing mixed martial arts and working out.He recently passed the national certification exam for Serv Safe managers. His instructor for this class was Michelle Pecchenino."Gerardo was a quiet, mature student among many young and talkative Nutrition students. He proved himself to be driven and focused," she said.Lozano is working towards an associate of arts degree in Foods and Nutrition and plans to transfer to CSU Fresno to pursue a bachelor's degree in Food Science and Dietetics. "Despite budget cuts, members of the Merced College faculty and Veterans Resource Center have aided me in reaching my educational goals through counseling, independent studies and assistance with veteran education benefits," he said. “For this I am forever grateful."