If you set out to live your life fully and to do your best, you’re almost bound to be a pioneer. At least that’s what happened to Luciano Grenni '04.
Luciano grew up in Salta, a Milwaukee-sized city in the Andean foothills of northern Argentina. How he ended up attending Carroll University is a story of pluck and perseverance—helped along by charitable friends and Carroll’s financial aid offerings. Now, Luciano is back in Argentina, paying it forward.
The story began in 1998, when Luciano won an American Field Services (AFS) scholarship to be an exchange student. He eventually landed in Wauwatosa, Wis., as a guest of Jim and Sarah Rand and their family. Jim Rand was then, and still is, a minister of the Wauwatosa Presbyterian Church.
“(Luciano) got here and could not speak English at all,” recalled Sarah Rand. “Yet, he hadn’t been with us for a month before he told us he wanted to graduate from Wauwatosa East High School.” Luciano was in a rush.He realized he could graduate from East that spring, a full year earlier than in Argentina. And he was eager to get to college and to get on with his life.
“The challenge was not the subjects themselves, but rather the language barrier,” said Luciano. He put in extra time with the school’s English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and with the Rands, quickly becoming more fluent.
By December, he told Sarah Rand that he intended to go to college in the U.S. It was a bold declaration. His family was struggling back in Argentina, which at the time was suffering an economic crisis. American colleges seemed out of the question, financially.
Still, he studied his English, eventually taking and passing the English proficiency exam required by U.S. universities, and scouring the internet for suitable schools. That winter, he and Sarah visited several schools, including Carroll.
And then a member of the congregation at Wauwatosa Presbyterian contacted Sarah Rand. She and her sister wanted to help Luciano, she said. Sarah figured it meant some warm clothes, perhaps winter coats, so she was not at all prepared for what the woman told her: “My sister and I want to help him go to Carroll.” They were offering thousands of dollars in tuition aid. When Sarah went to Luciano’s room to tell him the news, the two of them cried.
“It meant the possibility to get a college degree,” Luciano recalled. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to afford university either here or in Argentina. The help that I received from (those) members of the Wauwatosa Presbyterian Church, combined with the financial aid from Carroll, was enough to pay for tuition costs and other expenses and for me to travel once a year to Argentina and visit my family.”
Luciano had three majors at Carroll, in computer science, communication and graphic communication, and a minor in business administration. He also worked, tirelessly—in the PIT, in maintenance, as an RA and as a Spanish tutor. And when he graduated, his American friends helped to bring his mother here to watch him walk across the stage and get his diploma, a true Pioneer.
By then, he had already landed a job. He had interned for a large financial securities firm for three summers and they hired him and moved him to New York following graduation. He was on Wall Street. “The world working for an investment bank in NYC was very different from my previous experiences in school in Wisconsin, and from anything I’ve ever seen in Argentina. I had a mentor, Scott Buchta ’86, also a Carroll alumnus, who walked me every step of the way and to whom I will be forever grateful.”
Argentina remained in his heart, however, and he soon decided to return home. He is now founder and CEO of a consulting company that provides fundraising services for non-profits in Argentina. “I must say that this work brings me great joy, since it is a place where I can dedicate my time and knowledge to the fulfillment of different causes I strongly believe in,” he said. “Furthermore, it is wonderful to work with a staff of young professionals whose main concern is to focus on the missions and objectives of organizations who are trying to make a difference in the world.”
In his native country, Luciano truly is a pioneer, and he remains proud of his connection to Carroll. “Carroll gave me the tools to learn and the eagerness to build upon previous experiences. In addition to the academic education, Carroll allowed me to explore different worlds, through Student Senate, where I headed the Cultural Diversity Committee, and other student organizations such as IEC (International Experiences Club), LASO (Latin American Student Organization). I have a dear bond with Carroll, even to this day, where I remember it and relate to my time there quite often.”