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Taking part in summer leadership institutes has helped Gustine High senior Miguel Araiza flourish.

GUSTINE - A pair of summer leadership camps have helped a Gustine High senior flourish as he pursues college dreams and a bright future.

Along his journey, Miguel Araiza has overcome obstacles to success and now aspires to the education and career he once thought beyond reach.

A language barrier was among the challenges Araiza faced, one he said pushed him deeply into a personal shell and kept him from taking part in school activities and events.

His participation in the Migrant Student Leadership Institute the past two summers were instrumental in boosting his confidence and allowing him to become more involved on campus.

“I made friends and met new people who have gone through the same things as me. It felt good to know that other people were going through that,” Araiza said of the leadership programs. “I became more confident and grew.”

In his early school years, Araiza struggled - in large part due to his English learner status.

He was born in Los Banos but his family moved to Mexico when he was a baby. He started his schooling in Mexico, but came to Gustine Elementary as a second-grader.

“I was thrown into school without knowing English at all, so I struggled for the first couple of years. I found people who spoke Spanish, and they helped me a lot,” Araiza shared.

Araiza said he was in English language development classes until his freshman year.

“My family spoke mostly Spanish, so only in school did I speak English,” he explained.

While he had gained an understanding of English, Araiza said, even at the start of high school he was still reluctant to converse with others.

“I couldn’t really talk well with people I didn’t know. I was pretty much a quiet kid. I liked spending time at home, and the quiet,” he shared.

Today, he has become much more outgoing - which he credits in large part to the leadership institutes. He attended a session at Sacramento State last summer and one at CSU Channel Islands the previous summer.

One of the most striking activities, Araiza said, came when participants were asked to share the most difficult experiences of their lives.

“We talked about the hardest things we have gone through,” he said. “I ended up meeting a lot of new people who went through worse things than I did.

“It changed me,” Araiza reflected. “I became way more active.”

And, he said, “I just get along with anybody. Before it was easier to be around people who have something in common with me.”

Today, Araiza is president of the school’s Gamer’s Club, is a member of the Gustine High color guard and involved in Renaissance.

He is also preparing to attend college, though he has not yet selected a school, and plans to study computer science.

Araiza is involved in the school’s AVID program, which he credits for helping aspire to and prepare for a higher education.

“In junior high, I did not think I would be going to college,” he said.

His parents, Monica and Miguel Araiza, have been an inspiration as well.

His father works the fields and his mother is a seasonal factory worker, Araiza shared, and they have encouraged their children to strive for a better life.

“They have always told me to study and work hard in school. They don’t want me to be in their position,” he reflected. “I want to be able to help my parents eventually....maybe help them better their lives.”