Miguel Valladares is an Arizona State University student, studying sports business, and entering his sophomore year in college. He is also the oldest of four, Mexican-American, and a first-generation college student.

“To go on and get into college,” Miguel says, “it made my parents proud and it made me proud because it’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a child.”

He says he found some relief through his employment with Education at Work, and he plans to make his childhood dream come true.

Miguel started with EAW during the first semester of his freshman year in October 2019. After working in the fast food industry for several months, Miguel says applying for EAW was a relief because of its flexibility with student life . Six months later, Miguel – like other EAW students – is working from home as part of EAW’s initiative to keep students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Living 30 minutes away from work and school in Glendale,  Miguel says he had to commute to school and work – navigating traffic, managing his time, and paying for parking permits. EAW’s work from home transition was a relief to Miguel.

Currently, Miguel is studying sports business and is planning on furthering his studies in business administration. Miguel says business is an area he’s enjoyed since high school, and he finds security in it being an extremely versatile degree for his career.

“EAW has  helped me in a lot of ways,” Miguel says. “Being able to show on my resume that I can do more than fast food – I’ve learned technical skills, people skills, being able to talk to people from different backgrounds – sometimes from other parts of the world, it’s really helped me develop empathy for others and respond effectively to situations. These are necessary in business, so it helps me in the long run as well.”

First-generation college students are often met with feeling isolated because of their responsibilities. Miguel says it difficult to relate to his support system because he is the only one to attend college while working a part-time job and keeping up his grade point average. For Miguel – and other first-generation students – there is an unspoken truth about the pressure they have to succeed.

“The people around me do their best to support me and I appreciate that,” Miguel says. “At the same time, I do feel that sense of pressure. I feel like you can have this weight on your back where you have to graduate college because you are at this point, so you have to show the results for it.”

Throughout all the pressure, Miguel stills finds himself proud of everything he’s accomplished so far and everyone who played a role in getting him to this point.

As Miguel finishes his freshman year and prepares for his sophomore semester in the fall, he reflected on his goals and why his expectations for himself are extremely high.

“I’ve had this goal since I was a child: go to college and be successful,” Miguel says. “I want to complete that goal and be able to say I graduated, have a good income, can provide for my parents and my loved ones, and live a stable life.”

Miguel looks forward to continuing his studies and navigating college life with the help of EAW as he continues to add to his resume, earn tuition assistance, and gain valuable real-world job experiences.