Wrestling the odds

Bustillo made steady climb to success

Mark-Bustillo

By: Kristen Grom

What does a teenager in high school do when he has a GPA in the low range of 2? He goes on to medical school, of course. At least that’s what BGSU graduate Mark Bustillo, a biology major with a minor in chemistry, is doing.

The former high school wrestler wasn’t always so academically committed. Bustillo admits that in high school, his wrestling career took priority over his work in the classroom. While it was easy to blame the sport for his poor marks, there was a more personal issue affecting his academic performance. Bustillo’s parents divorced, and that added stress and emotional toll added to Bustillo’s academic struggles.

So how does a high school teen with a 2.3 GPA attend college, or, more interestingly, get accepted to medical school? Attitude, explained Bustillo.

“What really turned my academics around was a change in direction and attitude. When I came to Bowling Green State University I knew I was not going to continue wrestling, and I wanted to redirect that same energy and dedication toward something meaningful.”

His dedication to his sport soon evolved into a dedication to his career. Instead of spending his free time on the mats and in the gym, Bustillo’s new workout routine was mental stimulation. He attended faculty office hours, hovered over books, received tutoring and studied with his peers. While the look of his “conditioning” changed, he soon learned there was a different sort of team that could help carry him to the top: UPAS.

The University Program for Academic Success (UPAS) at BGSU assists students like Bustillo who struggle in high school but aspire to higher education. UPAS’s various resources were invaluable to Bustillo, while the program kept him on track. He was expected to maintain a higher GPA than the University requires. That expectation reminded him that grades came first. As a UPAS student, not having to declare a major his freshman year took a lot of pressure off him while he dedicated his time to learning new study skills and exploring his interests academically. Frequent, mandatory visits to his advisers allowed him to better understand both the University and his personal goals.

It was during the UPAS program that Bustillo took his first college-level science class. After he completed his first biology class, Biology Today, he said, he was “hooked.”

The UPAS program was not the only resource Bustillo utilized. In the summer of 2012, he was able to spend two months in Spain through BGSU’s study abroad program. Not only was he able to fulfill 16 credit hours, he also had the opportunity to explore his Spanish family heritage. During his time in Alcalá de Henares, a suburb of Madrid, Bustillo was able to merge academics both mentally and hands-on as he received two years’ worth of foreign language credit and explored a new culture.

“Academic success outside of the classroom simply comes down to applying what you learn in the classroom to something more tangible.”It was not only enrichment in the classroom and a foreign country that allowed Bustillo to grow, but also activities on campus. During his freshman year, he joined his first organization through the Office of Multicultural Affairs. In his sophomore year, Phi Eta Sigma, a national honors society, recruited Bustillo. It’s no surprise that his favorite organization was the American Medical Student Association (AMSA). His involvement with AMSA began during his freshman year, and in his junior and senior years, Bustillo was president of the organization.

Bustillo hopes his story can offer current and future students inspiration. “No goal is out of reach despite someone’s background or where they come from,” he said. “If students want to reach a goal, they must be willing to put forth an enormous amount of work.”

His advice for students is to utilize the tools BGSU has made available to them. If a student is unsure if a resource is available, it is their responsibility to inquire instead of neglecting their duties as a student. “Academic success outside of the classroom simply comes down to applying what you learn in the classroom to something more tangible.”

Bustillo is now preparing himself for the next chapter in his academic career: medical school. Which school he will attend is still up in the air while he undergoes interviews with schools like Indiana University School of Medicine, Western Michigan University, The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, Pa., and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine - Bradenton, Fla., branch. Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine has accepted him for the fall 2014 semester, and at the moment, it is his first choice.

Before Bustillo leaves the BGSU campus in December, he will proudly walk across the stage and receive his diploma with a thankful smile for his mother, who has motivated him throughout his life. “She has overcome intense adversity in her past only to come out of it successful,” Bustillo revealed with admiration.

That same trait of determination Bustillo appreciates in his mother is reflected in his own remarkable journey. No matter where he ends up, one thing is for sure: he will continue to excel and defy the odds.