First-year student wins prestigious summer internship in NYC

Luis Miramontes
May 06, 2014

Although he’s just finishing his first year at McDaniel, Luis Miramontes has already landed a highly selective summer internship in leadership and building community from Columbia University. He’ll spend the summer in New York City – a country away from his San Jose, Calif., home but steps closer to his goal of helping underprivileged kids succeed.

For as long as he can remember, people have been daring him to dream. And now Miramontes wants to give back.

“I’ve had very good people surrounding me, and they helped me get here,” says Miramontes. “In the community where I come from, no one expects anyone to do anything with their life, let alone graduate from high school.”

But in his family, the only homework interruption allowed was dinner. Then, in middle school, he was recruited into Breakthrough Silicon Valley, which “launches high-potential low-income students on the path to college.” Later, in high school, mentors at Students Rising Above and his teachers reinforced the Breakthrough inspiration.

He credits his Breakthrough coach and mentor – and head cheerleader – Jessica Wenzel with helping him stay on track and even suggesting McDaniel as a good fit. 

“I’ve known Luis since he was 11, and I am so proud of him,” says Wenzel, Breakthrough Silicon Valley’s high school program director, during a phone call from her office in San Jose. “He taught for us (Breakthrough) last summer and it was amazing to see him teach the students he once was.

“With his determination and personality, he is a terrific direct role model. It is inspiring to me to watch him come full circle.”

Coincidentally Wenzel had the same Breakthrough internship as Miramontes the summer after she graduated from high school. The sixth graders she taught then are in colleges all over California and parts of the U.S. She jokes that she’ll need to start saving now to finance her trips to all the graduations – 96 percent of Breakthrough students enroll in four-year colleges.

In her second year at Breakthrough, Miramontes was among Wenzel’s 20 new sixth-grade recruits. They’ve been a team ever since. Wenzel is one of the reasons Miramontes wants to work with young people. In fact, it is because of the difference his teachers and mentors made in his life that his goal is to become a teacher.

“If I can be a teacher and give even a fraction of that back, it will be the greatest reward,” says Miramontes, who throws discus and shot put on the McDaniel track and field team and is one of the first members of the West of the Mississippi Club on campus, which helps students from far away cope with homesickness, make travel arrangements and generally embrace college.

Miramontes will have the opportunity to make a difference while exercising his teaching skills this summer too – but on the opposite coast. The New York City internship first involves a two-week leadership seminar led by professionals in community building and academic administration. Then, during the six-week practicum the interns serve as resident advisors and program assistants in the university’s summer program for high school students.