Julio Mansilla was bartending a few years ago in the wee hours of the night at a downtown New Haven restaurant.
It was a job he held not long after having dropped out of college. While closing the restaurant, he decided to pick up a few things at a neighboring business establishment before heading home. Suddenly, a car approached and an individual asked him where one of the local establishments was located. As he started to answer, an occupant in the car stabbed him in the stomach.
Though he was bleeding and required medical attention, the wound was relatively minor. He returned to work a week later, but in the meantime had begun thinking seriously about going back to school.
“The money I was making was nice, but the ambiance of working in a bar and dealing with people who were drunk was just not for me.”
If the stabbing incident was not enough to spur a change in his career path, a similar incident just a few months later ensured that outcome. He was leaving his bartending job around 4 a.m. walking down an alleyway. Suddenly, he was approached by two men, including one who was asking for change.
“I moved his hand out of my way. I knew I was about to be mugged.” Sure enough, he was attacked and a fight ensued. He ended up getting stabbed in the leg. “I stood up and he and his friend ran away.”
The uncle of Mansilla’s roommate at the time cleaned and sewed the wound with a needle and some thread. He said he preferred not going to the hospital and racking up another medical bill, especially since the stab wound wasn’t too serious.
“I went back to work two days later and quit my job,” he said. “I made a decision right then and there to return to school.”
He moved back home with his parents and re-enrolled in classes at Southern for the fall semester of 2010. And less than four years later, Mansilla has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science.
Mansilla has been participating in an apprenticeship program, working with startup companies..
“He’s a very talented and hard-working person who really is motivated to turn his life around,” said Lisa Lancor, chairwoman of the SCSU Computer Science Department. “It is such a heartwarming and inspiring story.”
Mansilla, who was born in Guatemala, came to the United States with his family at the age of 13. The youngest of three children, he graduated from Hamden High School and currently lives with his sister in the East Rock section of New Haven.
Lancor said Mansilla loves helping other people and noted how he recently wrote an app for a farmer in Guatemala while he returned to his native country for a visit. “He is a class act with his peers and is always willing to explain things to others,” Lancor said.
Mansilla said his long-term goal is to start a company of his own.