Giving up was never an option for Julio Trinidad. The 27-year old Queens-born performer always believed that hard work and perseverance would help him achieve success—a trait that he attributes to his Dominican parents who immigrated to the United States to find better opportunities for their family. At LaGuardia Community College, Julio not only found his chance to shine, he found a passion that illuminated his future. Julio’s talent was put under the spotlight at the 46th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), which gives exceptional theater students from noted theater programs across the country the opportunity to attend master classes. He won top prize in the Irene Acting Scholarship Auditions, as well as an invitation to the selective Commonwealth Shakespeare Company summer intensive. “I didn’t think I was going to win,” recalls the humble actor with his soft-spoken inflection, despite the powerful stage presence that earned him first place: Julio’s intense six-minute performance, composed of two scenes and a monologue, at the northeast regionals earned him a $500 Irene Acting Scholarship and the chance to compete as a finalist in Washington D.C. Having rehearsed for four days a week for almost two months, Julio credits his instructors for the fruits of his labor. “A lot of credit is due to LaGuardia for choosing professors who push you and see your hard work,” he says, regarding such faculty members as Whitney Egbert for helping him win the $1,200 scholarship to attend the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s Summer Intensive in Boston. “I had never taken a Shakespeare class, and the other students auditioning were doing just Shakespeare. I won because of Whitney,” he says with deep gratitude. “These are people I admire." He enrolled in LaGuardia’s theater program in 2012 as an aspiring comedian who wanted to take acting classes to improve his work. “I saw that these other comics were acting on stage, and that was a quality I didn’t possess. I thought if I could be a better actor, I would be a better comic,” said Julio. “I’ve always wanted to act but was too afraid. That’s where LaGuardia came in.” Julio had never studied drama before, but his talent and discipline superseded his lack of experience and allowed him to thrive in his acting courses, become president of LaGuardia’s theater club and secure the lead role in “In the Heights,” a campus-wide musical production directed by his acting instructor and training coach Stefanie Sertich. “I never thought I would sing and dance on stage, ever,” he says with a laugh. “Stefanie introduced me to this art form, and I’m letting her know it means something to me,” he shares. An Assistant Professor of Theater at LaGuardia, Stefanie Sertich is also an actor, choreographer and award-winning director with an expertise that has fostered the advancement of the College’s theater program, as well as her students’. “It feels good to be treated as a professional, ” he says about Professor Sertich. “She’s here to build her students." After graduation, Julio plans to continue to a four-year institution for fine arts and has his eyes set on Lehman College, Brooklyn College or the conservatory program at Julliard.