Student Anthony Lomelino is very different from his peers at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida. Partially because he is more than twice as old as his fellow students, but more significantly it is because he is on pace to earn his fourth diploma in just over five years, despite having been a single parent of four and having battled depression and other hardships, including the end of his construction career after nearly three decades.

Lomelino’s decision to go back to school and to ultimately finish his studies at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management was one which would take his life in a new direction and create more stability for himself and his family.

“I knew that I wanted to work in a different industry, an industry that couldn’t be taken from me like construction was,” said Lomelino. “The hospitality industry had always interested me, and it just seemed so prestigious to be top dog at a big hotel, living in the GM’s suite. So I decided to go to college and study hospitality. ”

Lomelino’s troubles began in 2006, when the construction industry came to a screeching halt and his life took a turn for the worse.

“When the construction industry stopped, I lost my company, the bank foreclosed on my home, I lost my wife and I was left with four kids to support on my own,” said Lomelino. “I didn’t have a high school diploma or anything, so there weren’t many job opportunities out there for me. I went from making a decent living in construction to earning minimum wage at a gas station.”

As a gas station attendant, Lomelino worked odd hours, and soon his emotional and financial woes began to take a toll on his children, as well.

“My boys began dropping out of school and started getting into trouble,” said Lomelino. “That’s when I knew I had to make a change. I wanted to set an example for my kids and give them a better way of life, so I decided to go back to school.”

In 2007, Lomelino visited the Center for Women and Men in Daytona Beach, FL, where he was able to get the assistance he needed to prepare for his General Education Development (GED) test. But Lomelino was more than prepared, as he scored beyond the GED standards and was awarded a high school diploma.

The diploma, along with financial assistance from the Center for Women and Men, allowed Lomelino to enroll at Daytona State College in the fall of 2008 to study hospitality.

Lomelino didn’t waste any time taking classes, as he averaged a minimum of five courses each term. Not only was he taking a heavy course load, but Lomelino was earning high marks, too. Lomelino even managed to make the President’s List by taking 10 classes in a single semester and earning A’s in all of them.

The accelerated schedule that Lomelino imposed upon himself allowed him to earn an associate of applied science degree in culinary management and an associate of science degree in hospitality management in just two brief years. Lomelino graduated with honors and left Daytona State College as one of its most decorated graduates ever, earning several academic scholarships, multiple certificates of recognition, multiple Dean’s Lists, and the prestigious President’s List.

“At graduation, I was the only one to stand out like I did with all the medals and awards,” said Lomelino. “As a ‘seasoned student’ you have to stand above the younger generation of students, otherwise they were going to get picked for jobs before you. So I made sure to shine above everyone else to be noticed.”

In 2011, Lomelino made two important decisions: to enroll at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management to pursue his bachelor of science degree in hospitality management and to remarry.

“When I lost everything, I became severely depressed, but Kelly helped settle that,” said Lomelino. “We met at the Center for Women and Men, and Kelly offered to take me to and from meetings there, as I didn’t have the means to drive myself at the time. For a long time, I really wasn’t looking for a girlfriend or even a friend, but she snuck her way into my life, became my friend and eventually my wife. I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I have without her in my life.”

Since enrolling at UCF’s Rosen College just over a year ago, Lomelino has completed a majority of his credit hours and currently boasts a 3.47 cumulative GPA. Lomelino is expected to graduate in the spring of 2013, but in the meantime is anxious to start his internship with SeaWorld Orlando’s operations department this fall.

“I am very excited to start my internship with SeaWorld,” said Lomelino. “I’ve already been on a behind-the-scenes tour of the park, met a lot of the managers there, and really feel that SeaWorld is a great fit for me. I look forward to learning from this experience and hope that it leads to a career with them after graduation.”

Lomelino’s hard work has set an example for his children to succeed in school and life, and even inspired his wife, Kelly, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology at UCF.

“I hope that my story can help inspire others,” said Lomelino. “I am proof that no matter the circumstances, people can accomplish anything they want, as long as they have the desire to do so.”