Born and raised in Guatemala City, Palm Beach Atlantic freshman Pablo Castillo had a dream to study in the United States.
“I wanted to pursue something higher,” Castillo said.
His road to higher education had challenges. Castillo and his twin-brother, Juan, applied at a predominantly English speaking private school in Guatemala for many years without success.
“I would always fail the admission exams because of my English,” Castillo said. “After five years of trying, they accepted us.”
At the age of twelve, Castillo was granted admission into Christian Academy of Guatemala. Due to his limited understanding of English, he was held back two years.
Although the school was mostly attended by the children of missionaries, some students had limited grace for Castillo.
"People would make fun of my accent and call me stupid,” Castillo said. “At the time, it was tough because I was young and it made me insecure. . . By the end, it made me a better person.”
At the time of these challenges, God was revealing himself to Castillo.
“I was 12 when I started going to missions, and I started seeing miracles,” Castillo said. “That's when I began my personal faith with God.”
The school Castillo attended offered opportunities to learn more English and prepare for his future goal of attending an “American university.” All the while, he received English tutoring from a young woman in his church, Sophia Venegas.
When he was fifteen, Castillo and his family moved to Coral Springs, FL, where he attended Coral Springs Christian Academy. While at this new school, there was a Christian college fair that gave him his first exposure to PBA.
While researching PBA online, Castillo noticed a quote from a familiar name, Rodrigo Venegas, on the admissions page.
Venegas’ quote, from PBA’s admissions page, reads, “‘This is a place that allows you to grow, make decisions and to be challenged. That’s why I chose it as an undergraduate and why I stayed to do graduate work.’ Rodrigo Venegas, MBA, alumnus, Guatemala City, Guatemala.”
From reading of Venegas, Castillo was encouraged by a fellow Guatemalan. To him, it was not too common for Guatemalans to study abroad, so he began to research Venegas for any additional information.
Through his discoveries, Castillo found Venegas to be the brother of the young woman, Sophia Venegas, who tutored him leading up to and during his time at Christian Academy of Guatemala. In addition, Castillo discovered Rodrigo Venegas had attended the same private school in Guatemala years prior.
“I felt God was starting to put the puzzle together before me,” Castillo said. “He was leading me and opening doors.”
To the surprise of Castillo, Venegas was enthusiastic for the chance to help him. When Castillo asked Venegas why he would bother helping him, Venegas revealed that Castillo’s father had given him his first paycheck at the age of 14.
“For me, this made it clear that God was definitely a part of my life and deeply involved in my journey,” Castillo said.
Venegas aided Castillo by putting a recommendation in for him regarding a scholarship. This scholarship provided for a great sum of his tuition. Economically, Castillo would not have been able to attend without this scholarship.
“PBA was amazing, and they were very generous,” Castillo said. “It’s God’s grace and favor; that's the only explanation.”
God used PBA to award Castillo with a significant scholarship. He was, however, concerned with what remained of his tuition. He knew he, nor his parents, could afford the rest of his tuition. He asked God to show him the way, and he trusted Him because he felt this was where God had led him.
One month before the beginning of classes, Castillo received a phone call from his grandmother, Hena Castillo, in Guatemala. She mentioned how she had been in prayer, and God had touched her heart to give financial support to her grandson. She covered the rest of his tuition for his freshman year of college.
“I think it’s really awesome that she did this,” Castillo said. “God used her as a tool.”
Castillo has enjoyed his time here, and attributed his love of PBA with its overall hospitality. He praised the kindness of other students, professors, and mentors on campus, especially his friend who he met at PBA Open-House in spring of 2017, Chad Ainlay.
“As soon as I met him, I could tell that he was a very genuine and authentic person,” Ainlay said. “It didn't take long for us to get to know each other and that is when I realized what an amazing opportunity that I have to be friends with such a guy.”
Castillo’s life verse is Psalms 9:10 (ESV), “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” His life is a testament to a faithful and gracious God.
“In my weakness, God is strong,” Castillo said. “I want to be where He wants me to be. I want to live life, and I want to live it for Him.”