Miguel Arias: Alumnus Speaker at the Toast 2017

Miguel Arias, graduate of the Boston Prep Class of 2015 and current sophomore at Framingham State University, spoke at Boston Prep's annual gala, The Toast 2017.  Below are his words and a recording of his powerful message.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.” Those are words from the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Good evening.  My name is Miguel Arias.

According to educational statistics, there was a good chance I wouldn’t finish high school. I did. I was a proud member of the Boston Prep graduating class of 2015.  

Statistics say I wouldn’t go to college. I did. I am currently a sophomore at Framingham State University.

Statistics also point to the fact that I could become the 1 in 6 Latino males to be incarcerated. I haven’t been and will not be.

Thanks to my 9 years and counting with Boston Prep as a student and now an alum, beating these statistics and stereotypes has been and continues to be possible.

When I arrived in the sixth grade as a late transfer student from the Washington Irving Middle School, I found myself questioning why I was there and why I even had to wear khakis everyday. Coming from a traditional public school, I definitely experienced a huge culture shock. Everything was so structured and planned out from the moment you walked in and shook Mr. McCue’s hand as he asked you “Are you ready to learn?” until the moment you got on your bus at the end of the day. I had never experienced such a thing prior to my first day at Boston Prep.

In the 6th grade I had amazing, young, motivated teachers. However, one stood out to me in particular, Ms. Simone Esteves, formally known as Ms Miles. She was feisty! Electrifying! She was that teacher that you just could not let down no matter how hard the class was. She valued structure, organization, and most importantly success, and she brought that out of everyone of her students. Ms. Miles and I built a special bond. For some reason, she always wanted me to go to Harvard. So, when she saw me in the hallways, she would always yell, “HARVARD!” and keep walking. Obviously, I didn’t go to Harvard, and it is absolutely Harvard's loss - but Ms. Miles's words always stuck in my head.  They're still there today, motivating me, pushing me to strive for the best.  It was the first time I’d ever really thought about going to college.  She planted the seed that would become my college dreams.

I continued to be a motivated student throughout the 6th and 7th grade, and then in 8th grade my behavior began shifting. My demerits piled up, and I was sent out of class maybe a few times throughout the year. During this time in my life, I was beginning to face external distractions. I had family members involved in the street life, getting shot, getting arrested, and becoming statistics. And although I was not actively recruited to take part in any of this, it still affected my life because, at the end of the day, it’s family. As a young middle schooler, I easily could of chosen that life. When I came home from school everyday, I was welcomed by an empty home, due to my mom working evenings. I was on my own. I could have went out when my mom wasn’t home and took part in these questionable extracurriculars. But fortunately, I was blessed to have a choice. I chose to not put my mother, who came from the Dominican Republic for a better life, through that pain and suffering. I chose to make her proud.

But making the right choices wasn’t always easy.  Temptation to get off track was strong in school, as well.  In the 9th grade, I hit a wall. I became the class clown. Immature. I cared too much about what my friends thought of me. I began to think that school was somewhat of a joke. I earned my first suspension from school that year. I was slowly building a negative reputation for myself.  Because of that, I was slowly making friends with a friendly face at Boston Prep, Mr. Michael Lester. Mr. Lester, the dean at Boston Prep at the time said to me, “Miguel, every time you are sent to my office, you are burning money. Boston Prep students, meaning you, are fortunate enough to have a private school quality education for free.” At that time, I couldn’t fully appreciate the gravity of he was talking about, but it still resonated with me because I truly did want to be successful. While I didn’t immediately change my ways, it became another one of those voices in my head, like Ms. Miles shouting “HARVARD,” coaxing me to think about the choices I was making.  Mr. Lester was another huge part in my change at Boston Prep.

The 11th and 12th years were the ones at Boston Prep where I flourished. I finally started paying attention to what all these teachers had been telling me since sixth grade about taking advantage of the opportunity I had to excel.  I joined varsity sports as a volleyball manager, a basketball player and one of the first captains of the first ever Boston Prep varsity baseball program. My coaches, specifically Gio Morales, pushed me to extend my leadership from the classroom onto the field and taught me how to be a great teammate. I began the college process, investing more effort into this important choice than nearly anything before. Shout out to Mindy Wright, Fina Fontes and Dr. Wanda Montanez - the greatest counseling team that lead me through my time as a junior and senior. They always emphasized the importance of Latino male presence on a college campus and that really has stuck with me. With their help, I was accepted to several colleges, including Framingham State University, where I ultimately committed to attend.  I am now a first generation college student, which may be considered a challenge to some, but to me, it's not; to me, it's a great honor.   

I entered Framingham State as a Business Management major. I realized that was not for me and did some re-evaluating. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I decided to get involved on campus to see if that would help. I joined the Student Government Association as a Senator for the Class of 2019, and I also joined a new club started by a good friend of mine called Brother to Brother that inspires men of color on our campus to succeed in our individual and collective pursuits of excellence. I started as a general member, then was voted in as the Outreach Coordinator for the Executive Board, I’m currently the Vice President with aspirations to run for President of the club next semester. Through this heavy involvement with groups that advocated for social justice, I decided to switch my major to Criminology --with goals to become a police officer for the City of Boston, a profession that I believe will not only keep my city safe, but support our youth and help schools like Boston Prep continue to provide amazing opportunities to our students here in Boston.

I am building my future everyday.  Thanks to Boston Prep and the networking skills and events they provide, I have a summer internship with the Boston Police Department. Every day, I make the choice to put my success first.  Tonight, after I leave you all, I’m reporting to work at 11:00pm.  That’s probably not where you would expect a college student to be on a Friday night.  But I make the choice every day to prioritize my academic, professional, and financial success - skills and values I learned over my time at Boston Prep.

In closing, I would like to thank the wonderful teachers like Ms. Miles, Mr. Lester, Mrs. Wright, Dr. Montanez, Ms. Fontes and Mr. Morales - and so many more for their efforts day in and day out to make all of this possible for me and for all of our students and alumni at Boston Prep. To our current students and alumni in the room tonight, keep working hard and persisting.  As we know, your effort will determine your success.  And finally, to those here tonight generously supporting Boston Prep, thank you for believing in our mission and for believing in us. Your support is critical to our success. Please continue to help us not become part of the negative statistics.  Please help us continue to help us build the future. Thank you.