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When Gio Acosta first visited Harrisburg University, the college didn’t even have a building, but it had something much more important to him.

“People were going to Sci-Tech to use their labs,” he remembered. But he heard professors speak with so much passion about their mission that he decided to enroll. He wanted mentors who could motivate and inspire.

“When I visited other schools, I saw the school, the statues, but no passion,” he said. Acosta, 24, grew up in the Bronx and Dominican Republic before moving to Whitehall, PA and graduating from high school there. He enrolled at Harrisburg University and earned a computer information science degree in 2012. Acosta received various scholarships all four years.

“Anybody can hand you whatever you want, but you need to grab those tools and use them,” he said. “You don’t have anybody to blame but yourself if you don’t succeed. I worked hard. I spoke to professors. I stayed after hours.”

When he turned 21 he didn’t stay out and party. Instead, Acosta went to the library and finished a paper for class.

Acosta was fun to have in class, said Joseph E. Cannon, professor of Computer and Information Sciences. “During discussions he would have good positive points to make or he would be able to counterpoint. There would be a good discussion point that he would make.”

Professors and staff at Harrisburg University really cared about Acosta, helping him to get contacts and internships in his field. One professor even texted him if he was late to class, he said.

“They show the students the possibilities. That’s the first step is opening their minds to the endless opportunities,” he said.

Acosta’s internship at Penn National Insurance turned into a full-time job. Now he’s an I.T. Programmer there. He lives in Harrisburg.

“There’s a new problem every day. I love to figure out the coding, how it functions, how it travels,” he said. “I make it simple for the client to work in their field and receive help from our end.”

Harrisburg University helped Acosta establish himself professionally and become his own person, he said. Now he can contribute financially and help his mother with bills. It also helped him meet all sorts of people at school and in the community.

“School is to discover who you are and what you want to do,” he said. “So why not take that concept to everything you do?”