From a Border Town to Brown: How IDEA Public Schools Helped Pave the Path

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This month, beginning with National Charter Schools Week, we will feature stories from charter school graduates from across the country. Check back every day to see a new student feature in our 30 Days of Grad series. Today, we kick off 30 Days of Grad with an essay from a 2017 graduate of the 2016 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools winner, IDEA Public Schools. 

When I look back on my upbringing, I feel very fortunate to say that I’ll be attending Brown University this fall to become a doctor, because it was not an easy road. My name is Michael Mireles, and I’m a proud IDEA senior from IDEA Quest, located in Edinburg, Texas. 

I was raised by my grandparents, who were both migrant workers, in a small house we’d built ourselves, without a bedroom. I slept on the couch, one I was too tall for—I slept at an angle so I could tuck my legs in.

That couch was also my study spot, where I did my homework. There were five of us total in that little house, so there wasn’t much peace and quiet. Every night, we ate the same thing—beans and rice.

And while we didn’t have a lot—I wouldn’t change the way I grew up. I’m proud to be from this community, from a family who taught me the importance of work, and what’s truly valuable in life. I persevered because my grandparents showed me how. They taught me how strong we can be when we set goals and work to achieve them. Despite my circumstances, I knew I didn't want to sell myself short, especially knowing I came from such amazing and hard-working people.

One of the reasons I’m so happy to be a part of the IDEA Schools’s Team & Family, and soon to be an IDEA alumnus, is I feel like we share a lot of the same values. I joined IDEA Quest when I was in 7th grade, and I was drawn to their motto—the “No Excuses!” Yes, maybe it was a little cheesy, but at the heart of their schools is the belief that no matter where you come from, or what you’ve been through, they believe, 100%, that all children can get a great education, and they can graduate from college.

So they made me work really, really hard. At times it was not easy, at times it was stressful, but like any muscle, when you work it out and you take on new challenges, you get stronger. And that’s what I did—I got stronger. I studied, I met with my teachers, and I passed 11 AP classes. I got closer to my goal of being able to go to a good college and become a doctor.

But that’s only part of the equation at IDEA. Yes, they challenge every one of their students, but they also provide a support network—people to actually tell you this is what you need to do in order to accomplish what you want to do,” Michael said. With help of my counselors and my teachers, I was able to:

  • Win a national title in Debate in Washington D.C., partnered with my classmate, Tanya Reyna, who’s going to attend Columbia;
  • become a Bezos Scholar, part of year-long leadership development program public high school juniors; and
  • lead the STXI initiative.

I can honestly, say there’s no way I could have done all of these things without the support of IDEA Public Schools. You know, IDEA does all these things, they help kids develop a strong work ethic and guide them to be good people in the community, and they offer support that you probably can’t find at most other schools.

But most importantly, they take a kid who maybe didn’t come from much, and who maybe society wasn’t expecting a whole lot from, and they make him or her proud. Proud to be who we are, and driven to make the world a better for not only myself and my family, but for everybody.

You know, my grandma used to joke that one day I would walk into our tiny house and say, “Grandma, I bought you a new house.” Well, she still hopes for that day. And while I joke along with her, and I know that her and I both know that a Team & Family, and a community are what matters most, I plan to repay her for all the things she and my grandpa have done for me. I want to see the smile on her face, when I’m able to help her even a fraction of how much she’s helped me.

While I’m so honored to share part of my story with you, I want you to know that I am not alone in what IDEA has done for me. In fact, my graduating class of nearly 600 seniors, including many like me who may come from humble backgrounds, are going to college and are looking forward to bright futures so we can make our families proud.

[Click to Tweet] .@IDEAschools gave this 2017 grad the support he needed to make it to Brown University #30DaysofGrad


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