Rising Stars

What do a future submarine officer, missile contract manager, and press assistant have in common?

Rising Stars

They all work for the U.S. government, joined Greek organizations at La Verne and are showing marks of success in short time. Their backgrounds are very different, but their current paths share similarities. This is the story of three University of La Verne alumni — Nick Sloot, Lorena Hurtado and Anthony Juarez.

Nick Sloot
Nick Sloot

Nick Sloot was drawn to the wonders of outer space as a child. That passion came, in part, from Star Wars movies. And his mother caught him reading one of her college astronomy books when he was 10-years-old. “Ever since I was a kid, I just loved science,” Sloot said.

The 2012 La Verne graduate has his sights set in the opposite direction of the sky. He hopes to be a division officer aboard a submarine for the Navy next year.

The Navy Ensign — an entry-level officer rank — is currently at the Navy’s Nuclear Power School in South Carolina. It is a rigorous program with 40 to 45 hours per week in the classroom, more than 10 hours a week of studying and weekly tests as tough as college finals. Others at the school describe the experience as “drinking from a fire hose” due to the volume of complex information trainees have to absorb.

Sloot, 24, a Buena Park native, dove into student life at La Verne — pledging with Sigma Alpha Epsilon and joining the Associated Students of the University of La Verne. He had pondered a military career, but was not sure whether he wanted to be a pilot or pursue nuclear school. Either way, he promised his mother he would graduate first. A Navy recruiter steered Sloot toward Nuclear Power School after seeing he was a physics major and had good grades.

The process of becoming a “Nuke” is difficult and has a considerable wash-out rate. After he met with a four-star admiral in Washington D.C. for interviews and tests, ten of the 30 candidates in his group were sent home, Sloot said. He endured 12 weeks of officer candidate school soon after. He said leadership skills he learned at La Verne have helped.

As Eminent Treasurer for his fraternity, he helped the organization get out of the red financially. He won an Outstanding Eminent Treasurer of the Year award for all chapters of the organization. Sloot also participated in the Landis Leadership Scholar program, which he credits with shaping him into the person he is now.

Anthony Juarez
Anthony Juarez

Anthony Juarez’s elementary school teachers considered him an excellent student. But that compliment came with a caveat. “I had a talking problem,” he said. Through grade school, people considered Juarez chatty. So when he had to pick a major at La Verne, he chose communications.

Being a first-generation student, his parents urged him to pursue business instead. “I told them public affairs is a type of business and every business does need it,” he said.

His motivation to connect with others has propelled him into early success in the world of public relations.

Juarez, 22, of Ontario, graduated from La Verne in 2014 and works as a press assistant for the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs. The coveted position is sought by new college graduates across the nation, and Juarez found himself competing against Ivy League and other top-ranking school graduates.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for La Verne,” he said.

Juarez embraced cocurricular activities in college, joining Phi Delta Theta, the Campus Activities Board and the Associated Students of the University of La Verne. He worked as a graphic designer for the University’s marketing department, an on-air radio host for Leo FM, as well as a writer and editorial cartoonist for the Campus Times.

He was one of five La Verne students nominated to go through the political appointment process with the White House administration his senior year. The Department of Justice eventually offered Juarez a job. He is one of six press assistants who help with press conferences, press releases, graphic design, and website and social media content, primarily for the Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

What he learned at La Verne in and out of the classroom has carried over into his new job. Even the Associated Press stylebook he used at the Campus Times sits on his new desk.

Juarez wants to continue working in public affairs in the future because it is needed everywhere.

“You can go in any field of interest whether it is corporate, entertainment or political, and everything does need public affairs,” he said.

Lorena Hurtado
Lorena Hurtado

Lorena Hurtado remembers the day she and her Phi Sigma Sigma sisters joined hands for their sorority song during Greek week in 2007. They paid tribute to Neddie Iniquez, a sister who died of leukemia two years earlier.

Suddenly, the emotional moment became magnified. “Everybody in the audience stood up and started singing with us,” Hurtado said.

Hurtado, 28, describes her time at La Verne as one of self-transformation — from a shy, quiet student, to an outgoing, well-spoken leader. Hurtado credits the change to Greek life.

Hurtado lives in Tucson, Ariz., overseeing $11.5 billion in Raytheon missile systems contracts for the Defense Contract Management Agency, which manages missile defense contracts for the Department of Defense. Most people in her rank are in their mid-40s.

Hurtado was raised by a single mother, whose countless sacrifices taught her the importance of independence and ambition. The first-generation student knew a lot was at stake.

She majored in business administration and joined Phi Sigma Sigma her freshman year at La Verne. Hurtado considered Greek life more than a source of life-long friendships. She became comfortable at public speaking, something she loathed. Wendy Lau ’98, Board of Trustees member and advisor for Phi Sigma Sigma advised the women how to dress professionally and gave them confidence to pursue their career aspirations.

Hurtado praised Gail Horton, Director of the Professional Success Program, with teaching her skills such as business etiquette and networking.

During a senior-year internship with the U.S. Department of Commerce in Ontario, Hurtado discovered another internship for the Defense Contract Management Agency. The three-year paid position was in Arizona — away from everyone she knew. She made the sacrifice.

“I wanted to give back to the public as much as I could and make differences where I could,” Hurtado said.

She obtained a Master’s in Public Administration in 2014, opening the door to an administrative contracting officer position within the DCMA. Hurtado won Employee of the Year for 2015 for the Tucson office. She also got married in October 2014, becoming Lorena Malcolm.

“I’ve definitely accomplished a lot in the couple years I’ve been in Tucson,” she said. “But I wouldn’t be where I am today without the influential people I met at ULV and my mother.”