UCF’s youngest full-time student is the daughter of immigrant parents

Jamie Gunera Amador, 15, is pursuing a degree in biotechnology, plans to become a doctor

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Jamie Gunera Amador, 15, wakes up before sunrise and takes two buses to make it to her 8 a.m. class at the University of Central Florida.

“I wake up at 4 (a.m.), I get ready; take a shower, get dressed and then I’ll start taking the bus,” Gunera Amador said.

The teen is focused on earning her bachelor’s degree in biotechnology with a minor in biology.

“The teachers start notice how advanced she was and then they start telling us, ‘OK we need to move her forward,’” Lidieth Amador, Jamie’s mother said.

The teen is a gifted student who spent one month in kindergarten and at the age of 6 learned to play the piano.

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“It just kind of happened. I skipped grades, I did courses, high school courses, from when I was in second grade,” the 15-year-old said.

Gunera Amador said it all seemed normal at the time.

“It wasn’t that random for me because it just seemed at my level,” she said.

In May 2021, at 14 years old, Gunera Amador graduated from Apopka high school. That same month she also graduated with an associate’s degree from Valencia College and by the summer of that year, she became the youngest student enrolled at UCF.

When asked if she felt she was treated differently because of her age, the teen said that’s never been the case.

“Not really. At UCF there’s a level of respect. You’re there. You’re there to get a degree and people treat you with that same respect,” she said.

The young student hopes to eventually go into medical school. An interest she found after seeing the hardships her older sister Lilibeth went through while battling a rare skin condition.

“She had an autoimmune disease and that really affected her, and I saw how medicine and just the doctors around had helped her so I wanted to do the same,” Gunera Amador said.

Gunera Amador was born to immigrant parents from Nicaragua. Lidieth Amador, a computer engineer and Jaime Gunera, an accountant and economist.

The couple, who today works in landscaping, left their homeland in 2003 because of job insecurity and the political and economic instability of their country.

“You need to look for different places to work, to get a little bit more money for your family,” Jaime Gunera, Jamie’s father recalled.

Nineteen years after leaving the Central America country, the situation hasn’t improved.

“At this point, we figured out that we have a dictator in our country and the worst is that the people start to immigrate,” Gunera said.

Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega faced huge protests against his government in 2018. This past January, after a controversial election, Ortega was sworn in as president for a fourth consecutive term.

The family said leaving their loved ones behind was a difficult decision but they see the silver lining in their daughters’ futures.

“You’re always surprised, and you hope that you can provide as much you can in the resource that you have,” Amador said.

As for Gunera Amador, her hope is to make her parents and community proud.

“It’s a way of me showing that Latinos can make an impact in this country. And especially from one of the poorest countries in the world, Nicaragua,” the teen said.