Derric Romero compares his student experience at The University of New Mexico to the film Van Wilder. In the movie, the determined Wilder takes seven years to complete his degree and graduate.

“I started UNM in the fall of 2010, fresh out of high school, 17 years old, naïve to the world, college and experiences to come,” Romero said.

Romero finally graduated this Spring 2022 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, 12 years after he first started attending UNM.

“It wasn't always continuous. I did drop out once for about two years, and I took a semester off here and there to save up to pay for school.”

The going often got tough and discouraging.

“To anyone struggling to reach higher education, keep climbing. The steps may get harder, but the crest is within your reach."

Derric Romero, graduate, Class of 2022

Romero recalled his dorm days of being poor and, with best friend Pat Arite, getting lunch meat from La Posada cafeteria, adding it to a slow cooker full of beans, and feeding everyone on the dorm floor on cold days.

He also struggled with ADHD, work-life balance, and “let us admit it, procrastination. When my GPA dropped, I had to take intersession classes and my grades were always down, so I was always in school.”

Romero got to school by 8 a.m. and stayed in the library until it closed at 2:30 a.m., occasionally napping in corners as he doggedly pursued his degree. He saw the campus change and many of his friends graduate as he persisted and finally succeeded.

He credits his success to his mother Darlene Esquibel and father Peter Romero for being “my rock, and sometimes my hard place,” as well as Arite, ”who still inspires dreams.”

“My wonderful mother never let me give up. She would always say, ‘Let’s figure it out, what do we need to do?’… She was by my side to celebrate the A’s and repeat the F’s. We never gave up, through sleepless nights at Zim, the death of friends, dropping out and missed grades, full time jobs and overdue account balances. I never gave up because I couldn’t let her or myself down.”

Romero also is grateful to School of Engineering faculty and staff, including professor of Mechanical Engineering John Russell, associate professor of Mechhanical Engineering Svetlana Poroseva, and program advisement coordinator Anna Mae Apodaca for getting him through to his degree.

Romero has set his sights on a future in space, using his new degree to further research and explore space and possibly pursue a master’s degree in an aeronautical field.

“To anyone struggling to reach higher education, keep climbing. The steps may get harder, but the crest is within your reach. Never be afraid to be the oldest person in the room or to only take one class a semester, because this is your journey and yours alone, and most importantly never be afraid to come back to the Pack.”

His UNM experience has “helped me become a well-rounded man. I came in not even 18 and I walk away a proud engineer. It’s helped me understand dedication and perseverance. UNM has made me resilient… Never underestimate the power of a pack. Find yours and never let them go. Your pack is your power… I can truly say I’m proud to be a Lobo.”