International student Cyro Duarte, 27, absolutely enjoys living in Los Angeles and attending CSUN, and he has no problem telling you about it.
“I love Los Angeles,” Duarte said enthusiastically. “I think L.A.’s the best city. (It has) people from all over the world, different ethnicities. (I) love that.”
Originally from Aperibe, a small town in Brazil just outside the city of Rio de Janeiro, the senior journalism major’s U.S. education has helped him pursue his desire to help others and maximize his own potential.
Recently, Duarte was elected to serve on the Board of Directors for the University Student Union. Although his term has not begun, he is already thinking of ways to help CSUN students.
“I want to make sure every dollar is spent to benefit students,” Duarte said.
Duarte came to Los Angeles in 2001 and enrolled at Los Angeles City College. At the time, he was training to be a co-host for a Brazilian version of “E! Coming Attractions” and was approved for a United States work visa. But the production company scaled down its Latin American operations, and Duarte’s dream job was over before it started.
“I was very disappointed,” Duarte said.
Duarte said that experience taught him the instability of working in television production. He would now concentrate on his studies.
“I knew I wanted to finish my bachelor’s degree in America,” Duarte said. “(But) I had to take a lot of English classes. I didn’t speak it very well.”
While studying at LACC, Duarte enrolled in English classes at a language school for a year.
“I had a professor, an African American, at LACC,” Duarte said. “He said, ‘Cyro, it doesn’t matter what your color is, where you came from, what car you drive; all that doesn’t matter. What matters, deep inside, is what kind of job you do.'”
Duarte said he will never forget that advice.
Ken Bettsteller, chief operating officer for E! Networks and a friend of Duarte, said it is no accident Duarte ended up at CSUN.
“He went to CSUN and fell in love with the place because it wasn’t full of itself,” Bettsteller said. “It was real.”
Bettsteller said the USU and the student body are getting a strong leader in Duarte.
“Politics is in his blood,” Bettsteller said. “I think (the students) elected a good guy. He’s taking it very seriously. He’s actively engaged in trying to do some good. It’s not something (Duarte is doing) just to put on the r?sum?.”
Growing up in Brazil, Duarte’s father, Antonio Carlos, was twice elected to city council seats and was an influential figure in local politics. Duarte’s mother Rosane was a principal at a local elementary school.
Duarte, who has a minor in political science, said he worked to bring the Green Party to Brazil as a teenager and also helped organize cities to support Cesar Maea in his late 1990s bid to become governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro. Maea lost that race, but is now the mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Duarte thrived on those experiences.
“Political science is my love,” Duarte said. “It’s my baby.”
He attended law school in Brazil but transferred to a journalism school because he thought he might get a chance to travel more as a journalist.
Duarte has spent significant time traveling, visiting Japan, France, London, and New York, to name just a few locations. Over the years, his perspective on traveling has changed.
“Before, when I was young (and traveling), I just wanted to party hard, baby,” Duarte said. “Now I want to see the culture, the art, the people, their point of view, how (their) economy (is doing).”
Bettsteller described Duarte’s life in America as “the classic modern immigrant story in this day and age, instead of (that of) the folks flooding across Ellis Island 150 years ago.”
“I think he certainly has an understanding (of life and culture) outside of the United States,” Bettsteller said.
Bettsteller said Duarte’s work ethic and drive are evident when you consider that Duarte spent a couple of summers as an intern for MTV, and somehow, without any help from influential friends like Bettsteller, landed the coveted assignment of working with Brian Graden, president of entertainment at MTV Networks Music Group.
“He came here with no contacts and a lot of ambition and motivation, and he has done quite well for himself,” Bettsteller said.
Duarte said he could do a lot more if he could get paid to do a job. As an international student, Duarte is not allowed to work anywhere but on campus.
“It’s not fair,” Duarte said. “We have to change that. I don’t know how, but we have to find a way. (International students) love this country. That’s why we stay here. (Governor) Arnold Schwarzenegger should look out for us. He is an immigrant.”
Duarte lowered his voice as if to relay a secret.
“(Schwarzenegger) inspires me,” Duarte said. “He’s an immigrant. He has a thick accent. He inspires me to be a leader.”
Although Duarte wants to earn a good living, he does not think politicians should get paid. In Brazil, this is a problem, he said.
“In Brazil they pay (politicians) very well,” Duarte said. “Some people, they don’t have water in the house, no power, and the politicians get big bucks.”
As much as he loves the United States, Duarte thinks there are some things that need improvement.
“I’d love to see a Mexican with more power, (and) more African Americans on Capitol Hill,” Duarte said. “I’d like to see more of that.”
Although Duarte is majoring in journalism, his experience taking political science classes and now getting set to participate in the USU may lead him to a career in the political arena
If he returns to Brazil after he graduates next semester, politics is a definite possibility, he said.
If he stays here, he would probably focus on a business career, preferably one where he could help others, he said.
But first, he will help CSUN students.
As a member of the USU Board of Directors, Duarte wants to make sure students have a say in how their money is spent.
If students want “samba dancers and carnaval,” then he will support that, but maybe there are more meaningful pursuits to spend $120 per student on, Duarte said.
“I know a good speaker can change people’s lives,” Duarte said. “(Maybe) somebody from Africa.”
Duarte suggested some of that money could also be used to benefit students from low income areas who couldn’t afford to come to CSUN otherwise.
“I think that’s more important than having a party,” Duarte said.