Q&A with Mr. Hyphen Finalist

Born in the Philippines and raised in the Bay Area, Miguel is the Student Life Program Director at College Track in Bayview-Hunters Point, San Francisco. A proud graduate of the City College of San Francisco and the University of California, Los Angeles, he also serves on the Educator Action Group for Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) to increase support for undocumented students. Miguel’s mission is to serve the youth most impacted by the opportunity gap and help guide young people in taking the responsibility of creating a more equitable society.

Hyphen: Why did you want to get involved with Mr. Hyphen?

Miguel: I felt that I could utilize whatever attention I may garner from Mr. Hyphen in order to promote and bring visibility to the issues and topics that are important to me — whether it be education, youth, immigration or Bayview-Hunters Point. I also feel like being part of this year’s festivities is going to be both fun and a humbling experience. I’ve been able to meet and speak to most of the other contestants, and it has been so encouraging to see the crucial, inspiring work that these Asian brothers have devoted their life’s blood to. And as many of the young people like to tell me every day, “Why not? YOLO!”

Describe a typical day for you.

During the day, I am bouncing around the city meeting with program and community partners. From 4 to 7 pm, I am usually at my program site with College Track, where I supervise and coordinate art and music programs, yoga classes, and leadership workshops. In addition, I reach out to young people about various employment and internship opportunities available to them in San Francisco. I also do my best to practice my own personal wellness by playing pick-up basketball games at the YMCA and reading.

What spurred you to pursue work in educational equality?

I grew up in a home where my parents didn’t have the privilege of obtaining a college education. Of all my best childhood friends, I was one of the few who was able to have that privilege. I feel that it is my duty to promote and support young people in achieving their educational and life goals. Everyday, in the faces of the youth I serve, I also see the faces of my childhood friends who didn’t make it. Through my work, I want to honor the past, the dreams, and the memories of those who weren’t able to access a higher education. I do the majority of my work in the Bayview-Hunters Point community of San Francisco, which is one of the most historically and culturally rich communities in the city. The success of Bayview and the young people in this community will have very real implications on the future of San Francisco, which cannot be overlooked or ignored.

If you could give a message to today’s youth — what would it be?

Adults don’t hold all the answers. The main thing I continually remind the young people I work with is that they have loud, powerful, valuable and important voices. There are many ways to express those voices, whether it’s through community service, leadership, school, work or a job. The first step is to set your voice free.

What upcoming projects do you have on your plate/are most excited about?

Recently, I began to get involved with an organization based in Oakland known as Brothers on the Rise. While the organization is small, they are providing crucial early engagement for boys of color. They provide programming at elementary and middle schools in the bay area focused on helping boys of color develop life skills that promote health and success through leadership, enrichment opportunities as well as counseling. Secondly, I began my journey at College Track about four years ago, and the young people who joined the program during that time are now high school seniors. Together, we’ve gone through a long and arduous journey. Despite the odds stacked against them going into high school, the resilience and tenacity that each of these seniors has displayed continually reaffirms my faith in our young people. All 40 have received acceptances to colleges and universities all over the state and country. I have no doubt that they’re going to contribute positive change to this world and at the same time rep their families and communities.

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