UW-Whitewater's Miguel Aranda stands up for Hispanic education
Occupation: UW-Whitewater student majoring in international business
Family: Father, Apolinar, 42; mother, Guadalupe, 41; brother, Pedro, 16; and sisters Mariana, 7, and Isabel, 4.
Nickname: Aranda said some people in the Latino community know him as Peter Parker—Spiderman.
Words that describe him: Approachable, likes to laugh, dependable, family-oriented, multitasker, curious.
WHITEWATER Miguel Aranda isn't living up to expectations.
A first-generation American, he only needed to follow a simple set of rules: attend high school, find a job and provide for his family.
That was never enough for Aranda. The son of Mexican immigrants, the 20-year-old UW-Whitewater student is leading the charge to find more Hispanics a road to higher education. And it all starts with his own.
"After high school, (our culture) is just thinking get a full-time job and already start a family," Aranda said. "My parents even told me it was OK to start a family this young, but that just wasn't for me."
As president of the campus' Latinos Unidos, Aranda is helping expand the organization's campaign to put more of Wisconsin's Hispanic students in college. The group already has held forums at Whitewater and Delavan high schools, and he's hoping to expand into Beloit and Waukesha this year.
Members of Latinos Unidos work with other first-generation high school students to research colleges and grants and help them apply for the ACT. It's the type of leadership Aranda never had, and he's hoping to pass that on to others dealing with the same issues.
That includes his family. Aranda's younger brother enrolled in advanced placement courses at Whitewater High School and hopes to pursue a career as a video game programmer. His two sisters also have expressed interest in higher education, though they're still in elementary school.
"I'm pretty much showing them which direction to go," Aranda said. "They're already getting it in their minds that they're going to college, and that's pretty exciting."
Lanora Heim, director of pupil services at the Whitewater School District, described Aranda as a smart but shy student in high school. She said he's made a difference to Hispanic students within the district, some of whom are undocumented and might not otherwise pursue college degrees.
He's even involved the parents, she said. Some have trouble speaking English, and Aranda helps bridge the gap between them—ensuring a college education for their children.
Aranda didn't immediately enroll in college after graduating high school. He worked for a year, helping his family pay bills while saving for college.
His father works at Trostel Ltd. in Whitewater, which in December began laying off 87 people.
He wasn't among those who lost their jobs, but Aranda is still conscious of the fact that he's the family's "No. 2." If they need him, he's ready to pitch in.
"What a cool young man he's blossomed into," Heim said, "becoming the leader of an organization and saying, 'Here is what I see is a big issue in this community, and here's how we're going to go after it.'"
Aranda said he wants to run for the presidency of Latino Unidos again next semester, though he admits the extracurricular work has taken its toll. He also works with the campus' Chinese organization, leaving little time to himself between work and class.
Aranda is majoring in international business. He's still not sure what career path he'll choose, but he's considering work as a translator to help foreign businesses improve their operations.
"I always remember what my business teacher was saying," he said. "Get a job that you have a passion for. Something you enjoy."