If there is one thing that has contributed to senior video production major Axel Vazquez’s exceptional experience at William Penn University, it is the communities he has found while here.
A Quaker university, William Penn’s focus on community is an integral part of
everyday life on campus, and Vazquez’ experience in Oskaloosa is evidence of such, as he has found community and family in all aspects of his time at Penn.
“Community is one of the biggest values, not just as a Quaker, but as a person,” he said. “[My mentor] yesterday told me, ‘you’re a product of who you are around,’ that’s what makes community so valuable to me.”
At Penn, Vazquez has had the opportunity to surround himself by similarly motivated individuals, deepening his passion for his art and teaching him more about himself.
His talents and passion in film production haven’t just helped him to discover parts of himself, but to find his own communities as well. “My communities are filmmaking, running, and Oskaloosa itself,” he said. “I’ve never really felt at home anywhere in the way I’ve felt at home in Oskaloosa just because of how supportive it is, how inclusive it is and how welcoming it is…I went from a welcoming community in Colorado to an even more welcoming community in Oskaloosa.”
For Vazquez, the move from his tiny Colorado hometown to Oskaloosa opened doors that he’d long since looked for. “I wanted to go somewhere where I could write my own story and do my own thing,” he said. “The town that I grew up in, one of the biggest things was if you didn’t have a last name, then you didn’t really matter too well unless you were the quarterback or something like that. I kind of had a name for myself in track and cross country, but I knew that I wasn’t going to go pro for running. I am going to go pro in filmmaking, and that’s why I wanted to escape [my hometown] a bit.”
Vazquez aspires to take his passion and experience in video production far beyond the borders of campus and looks to someday be a professional filmmaker.
“I’ve always known I was going to be a filmmaker and a video producer, Penn just helped me out,” he said. “I don’t believe in dreams, I believe in goals, and you have to work for them.” And work for them he has.
Knowing his whole life his aspirations of professional filmmaking, Vazquez spent years teaching himself video editing and production before ever touching foot on Penn’s campus. Throughout middle and high school, he made videos copying his favorite Youtubers, building his repertoire of editing skills in the
process. “Axel, he impressed me since the very first time,” Film artist-in-residence and director of the New Media Department Max Leonida said. “You see when people are really committed. They are always there, they never miss a lesson.” His commitment isn’t the only thing that sets Vazquez apart from other aspiring filmmakers.
“He has undeniable technical skills that other students don’t have,” Leonida said. “He has an eye for editing. If I have to say something about him, more than anything else… he is a great editor. I can be the best professor in the world,
anybody can be the best professor in the world and anybody can try to teach you something, but that’s something that you have to have inside your heart.”
As Vazquez prepares to graduate in May, he is grateful for his time at Penn and has just one piece of advice for the next generation of students starting their college careers come August.
“I think it’s ok to not know exactly what you’re going to do or what you want to do,” Vazquez said. “As long as you have an idea of who you are, because it’s more important to know who you are than what you are. If you put some focus onto what happens after college, you can learn something about yourself and how you want to contribute to the world. It’s more important to think of ways that you want to live the best life you can and make contributions to the world other than just working. I would never just go to work to make money. I want to do something that fulfills me, that I love to do and that I’m passionate about.”
William Penn University has given Vazquez the environment to continue learning, growing and creating. The communities he has found and experience he has gained are just some of the aspects of campus life in Oskaloosa that have allowed him to leave with so much more than just a new degree.
“The experience was a lot more valuable than grades specifically,” he said “The things I learned in the new media division will be with me for life. The connections I’ve made, the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had, the professionalism that I’ve learned, those will be the things that stay with me.”