By Lauren Frank
For The Diamondback

Students walking through the Heritage Community between 8-11 p.m. this school year have probably heard the melodic tunes of Gustavo Rego and his guitar.

Since moving to the University of Maryland in August, Rego — a freshman aerospace engineering major — has dedicated three hours almost every night to sitting outside Pyon-Chen Hall and playing the guitar.

Like many incoming freshmen, Rego felt the stress of starting college and not knowing many people. Instead of letting those feelings best him, Rego actively confronted them — stepping outside of his comfort zone to play guitar in a public space.

His peers immediately gravitated toward the music’s calming vibe, and some stopped by to strike up conversation with him.

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“I started thinking, okay, this could be a good way to actually get to know some people,” Rego said.

As Rego became a familiar face for students on North Campus, several wanted to support him and inquired about a tip jar. At first, Rego was reluctant to put one out because he feared it would disincentivize people from going up to him. Eventually he decided to collect tips — but only to donate to a cause important to many students.

All of Rego’s tips go towards the Jed Foundation, a mental health nonprofit that provides resources for young adults who struggle with mental or emotional health issues.

Rego chose the Jed Foundation because he cares about mental health and aims to support and help college students. Rego has raised more than $600 for the Jed Foundation this year and is hoping to donate even more.

Freshman aerospace engineering major Jake Chapman has avidly supported Rego since the beginning of the school year, and has accompanied him on guitar multiple times. Rego’s music is comforting to students passing through the courtyard, Chapman said.

“Gustavo’s playing impacts the atmosphere of the Y [courtyard] in a positive way,” Chapman said.

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Freshman computer science major Meherzan Gai has walked by Rego playing his guitar almost every night this school year. The music provides him with a moment of peace, Gai said.

Recently, Gai has seen more of a crowd around Rego’s bench when he plays. He attributes this to students seeking relaxation during midterms.

“You sort of just de-stress, relax, and honestly, just vibe,” Gai said.

Chapman and Gai appreciate Rego’s musical talent, but also admire his desire to create a welcoming environment and give back to the community. Rego’s donation cup is almost always full by the end of the night, Chapman said.

Rego plans on continuing to play as much as he can, even as the cooler months approach. He is always happy to have other students drop by and accompany him with their own instruments or voices.

“I have a jacket and I have gloves,” Rego said. “We’ll be out there.”