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Persistence pays off for the first generation graduate

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Persistence pays off for the first generation graduate

Screenwriter: Antoinette Graheda

Miguel Roque, UAFS Grade 22, knows the importance of working hard to overcome obstacles, and he used that skill to become a first-generation college graduate and military officer.

Born in Mexico City, Roque was raised by his grandparents while his parents lived in the United States. Due to paperwork problems, Rock did not receive a residence permit until he was 14 years old. He and his older brother then joined their mother at Fort Smith, but the transition was difficult and Roque was ridiculed because he did not speak English.

“I used to get bullied whenever I came here, so I just wanted to go back to Mexico because it was so different,” he said.

The young immigrant learned the language better by attending English as a second language classes. His school advisor at Northside High School also helped him improve his English after school.

“Not only that, but she was the one who basically said, hey, you need to take this course, you need to take this course if you want to go to college,” he said.

Roque wasn’t sure he wanted to go to college, so when his brother, who was in the military, discussed the benefits of being in the military, he joined the JROTC—Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps—to learn more.

JROTC instructors praised Roque’s leadership and intelligence. They encouraged him to continue the program because it could lead to a college scholarship, which it did. Playing football on Northside also led to a scholarship offer from Kansas College, but Rock chose to attend UAFS because of its ROTC program.

“It was really difficult because I love football, but I’m not going to live off football and ROTC is what I really wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to be an officer.”

In addition, Roque was glad that he could stay close to his family while attending UAFS. He was also impressed by the diversity of the campus and said that the university welcomes minorities.

“I think it’s very important that you feel welcome wherever you go, because obviously college is already hard and stressful, but once you have that kind of support, help from your teachers, lecturers, friends, kind of increases your motivation,” he said. .

By participating in programs such as ROTC, the Spanish Club, and the National Leadership and Success Society, Roque was able to connect with members of the campus community.

“If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have some of the friends that I have now that I consider to be really close friends,” he said.

In May, Roque received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and an additional degree in military science. On the same day, he was commissioned into the US Army with the rank of second lieutenant. His dream job is to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Drug Enforcement Agency. He wants to start gaining experience by working for the Fort Smith Police Department where he can help diversify their ranks.

“It’s not very diverse, but I hope that with what I have to offer, hopefully enough for me to make an impact on the community,” he said.

As a part-time job, Rock worked for a company that provides translation services for people applying for things like Social Security or disability benefits. This experience inspired him to create a backup plan for his career.

“If I don’t go down this FBI path, I would really like to be a lawyer one day, because I have seen firsthand – because I translate for people – what it’s like to be an immigration lawyer, and I just really like the way they do things, like they are trying to actually help people,” he said.

No matter what the future holds for him, Rock is proud of his accomplishments and thanks his family for his success.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my mom and also my brother who has been by my side since we were kids,” he said. “But mostly my mom…she gave so much for me and for him that I couldn’t be more grateful for it.”

At first, Roque was afraid to go to college because people told him it was a waste of time and money. He decided to go anyway and learned that you can do anything if you work hard.

“You never know until you try, so these people – especially minorities, Hispanics, Latinos – should at least try, because they will never know,” he said. “While it’s difficult, if they stick with it, it’s all about persistence, time management, just focus, and doing the right thing.”

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