VALRICO – At midnight in Gainesville, Cassie Llano was the life of the party. She had friends, plenty of alcohol, and couldn’t have been happier.
By 3 a.m., however, she could be found crying in bed. She was simply another student at the University of Florida, scared and feeling she was missing something.
She was determined to find out what it was.
Llano was a party girl who enjoyed the big college experience, yet was somehow able to make it to class on her way to an engineering degree. The former Durant High School student lived the typical college life – lots of studying, lots of friends and lots of partying.
She also grew up a devout Catholic who went to church every Sunday. And on those Sundays, she felt something was missing.
“I had it made, but I didn’t,” Llano said. “Something wasn’t right. I thought I had everything I wanted, but I didn’t. Something was missing.”
It was during an internship in Boston that Llano, hung over from the night before, went to Sunday Mass and had her world changed.
“I was in church and I didn’t want to leave,” Llano said. “I was doing great in school but I just wondered where my life was going. Everything in my exterior life was great, but the interior wasn’t right. I just realized I needed something more and I decided that I wanted God. I just sat there and knew I had to make a change.”
The partier from Durant decided it was time to put her new feelings into action. Last year, she decided it was time to reach out to her Catholicism. She joined FOCUS – Fellowship of Catholic University Students – and is planning to spend time as a missionary, traveling to colleges all over the country.
“That is where I can make my greatest impact,” Llano said. “I have a chance to share my life with people. I did a lot of things, but I am a different person. I want to spread the word of God.”
Llano doesn’t condemn her old friends, and while she attends the parties, she has changed.
“I lost a lot of friends, but my best friends are with me,” Llano said. “I just told them I wanted to change, and I don’t judge them.”
At first, Llano said she made excuses for her new behavior, until one day she came clean and told her friends she wasn’t the same person anymore. Some of her friends asked her if she was now a Jesus freak.
“I don’t preach to anyone unless they ask,” Llano said. “I am happy with who I am now. I started reading the Gospel and the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. People started telling me I had what it takes to be a missionary.”
And while Llano doesn’t mind the occasional glass of wine, her focus has changed. “I get tempted some times, and I don’t mind going to the bars,” Llano said. “I do things in moderation but not like I used to. I’ve been through it and found some place where I am happy. My friends are my friends and if they understand, they do. FOCUS is my main thing right now, but I still want to be an engineer. We’ll just see what happens.”
She also had one more comment about her past and her present and her future.
“I am not perfect,” she said. “But I am happy.”