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Student Spotlight – Misael Nava, First Year College Student at USU

Jeannine Huenemann

12/13/2018

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Former APA student Misael Nava and GEAR UP alum is now a first-generation college student at USU
Former APA student Misael Nava and GEAR UP participant is now a first-generation college student at USU

While many students don’t start thinking about college until their final year of high school, former American Preparatory Academy (APA) student Misael Nava started preparing in 8th grade. He was able to do this through hard work and focus on his part, and by taking advantage of APA’s USU STARS! GEAR UP program and its many college-readiness activities.

Today, Misael is a first-generation college student, studying computer engineering at Utah State University. When USU STARS! Program Coordinator Melia Balls first met Misael in middle school, he told her that he was struggling in school. Later when she met him during a USU STARS! summer program on the USU campus, he told her that school was going better but he was wasn’t sure if he could see himself at a college. At the beginning this year, he greeted her with a big smile, as an incoming USU freshman.

The road to APA for him was a winding one. His family returned to Utah when he was in middle school, leaving his dad behind to take care of the house in Missouri. At the time, his sister was in school and interning at APA. This gave him the opportunity to attend the school which turned out to be a good fit for him. One of his other siblings didn’t like the school and returned to Missouri, but Misael and his mom stayed on, completing his education in Utah.

APA, a partner school with the USU STARS! GEAR UP program since 2012, prepares students for college success by offering tutoring, summer programs, and career exploration and much more. Misael had opportunities to visit a different college campus every year during “college week.” He also took six advanced placement (AP) courses over three years, including history, English language, government and calculus. In his senior year, he logged over 133 hours of GEAR UP services.

At the end of 10th grade, Misael came to our Aggie Summit camp held on the USU campus. He said that camp was great because it was packed with activities and lots of walking. Through this camp experience, he learned about college writing, time management, and how to navigate campus. This experience was so positive that he returned to USU the next summer to attend Engineering State, an engineering camp for incoming high school seniors.

“I liked being introduced to the multiple aspects of engineering,” said Misael. “Growing up, I always went to the default of what my parents wanted me to be, so they always said, become a lawyer, become a doctor. In middle school, we took a survey to find what our interests were, and I found out that one of the highest I had was computer engineering.”

When asked about what made it hard for him to go to college, FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, quickly came to mind. As a student at APA, he attended an event at his school where professionals helped him complete the form needed for students to receive federal assistance and scholarships. "I am going to have to do it by myself because my parents really struggle with this kind of stuff,” Misael said, knowing that he had to file FAFSA each year to keep his funding.

Misael’s advice to other students following him to college is simple:

  • Be prepared for the ACT college admissions test
  • Build up your resume in high school to show interest in activities connected to your college interests
  • Apply to more scholarships
“I had an interest in engineering, I should have joined the robotics club or the coding club at school. We had them but I didn’t join,” said Misael. “I applied to a couple [of scholarships] but I should have applied to more.”

Misael knows that his parents are proud of him. They didn’t go to college, and his sister didn’t graduate, so he is the first and only one in family going to college, and plans to finish.