Colombia Native Finds New World of Possibilities After Coming to America

Carlos Rendon Montano (Philadelphia) is studying Criminal Justice at Manor College. He credits the institution with giving him the opportunity to grow.

Carlos Rendon Montano is a Criminal Justice student from Philadelphia.

Carlos Rendon Montano sits down at the table every evening and jumps on a Zoom call with his parents. 

The native Colombian left his home country in 2018 to live with his grandmother. He thought it’d be two years in Philadelphia until he saw his parents again – the amount of time it takes to get braces. 

The pandemic changed that. Now, with his college commitments, it’ll be a total of six years since he last saw them.

“Sometimes I cry because Colombia is home,” Montano said. “The last time my family saw me, I was only 17. I’m taller. I didn’t have a beard when I left. But even though I miss my country, my family and my friends, I can’t say I didn’t do anything these five years.” 

Montano grew up a shy kid, often hanging out in his room every day. Those who knew him as a teenager wouldn’t recognize the outgoing man he’s become. 

On a normal day, Montano chats with fellow Manor College students about Marvel movies and Criminal Justice classes. He became a Presidential Ambassador in 2023. He represents the college during large events including leading tours at Open Houses.

He credits the change from introvert to extrovert to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“My safe space was my room,” Montano said. “For six months, I was trapped in the house. I was looking at the same walls every day and that’s when I realized I didn’t want to be in that cave anymore.” 

Since then, Montano jumps at every opportunity to explore. He’s visited several Philadelphia tourist attractions and explored the region. His bucket list includes Seattle, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls.

“It’s good to be home, but I can’t spend my entire life there,” Montano said. 


Carlos Rendon Montano and his grandmother, Nelly Manrique on a recent trip.

Montano first discovered Manor College through his grandmother, Nelly Manrique. Manrique, a 1991 Associate’s Degree graduate, told him about Manor’s supportive community.

“Honestly, I don’t think you’re going to get this level of attachment at any other college,” Montano said. “There are other good colleges, but at Manor, you’re in a family. You Belong Here. And if you come to Manor, you’re going to belong here because this is a place that makes you feel like home.”

Montano is expected to graduate from Manor College in 2024 with his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. His initial goal was to be a defense attorney – the result of watching a lot of Law and Order. An internship this Summer with HIAS PA opened up new possibilities. 

The law firm he worked for dealt with immigration, and Montano became part of the intake team. He took calls, listened to their stories and helped direct them to the proper location. 

“I realized there are a lot of people that need help and want an opportunity to come to this country,” Montano said. “These guys are like me. I came for an opportunity. I could be an immigration attorney and give back to people who were like me.” 

His passion for helping others comes from his Colombian grandparents. In his town, Montano’s grandfather used to buy bread for the homeless. His grandmother and uncle would decorate the whole neighborhood for Christmas. 

There’s a saying his aunt once told him that became the mantra of Montano’s family: Aunque estes en la cima de la montana recuerda que venias del suelo. It translates in English to, “Even if you’re on the top of the mountain, remember that you came from the ground.”

“The members of my family were humble people trying to help others,” Montano said. “I see them and it inspires me to go out and help too.”


After Montano graduates in 2024, his first plan is to return to Colombia to visit his family. Sometimes, he gets teary-eyed thinking about that day. 

“These years have been a great experience,” Montano said. “I changed from a shy boy to a social guy. We survived a pandemic. I know that my future is here, but I’m excited to see everyone and their reactions to the new me.”

Montano credits Manor College with giving him an avenue to a new life. 

“In me, there is a passion to go outside even more,” Montano said. “I want to explore this world and go do what I couldn’t do when I was sitting in my cave. Manor gave me the opportunity to change who I used to be, and I’m going to use it 100%.”

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