One question can change your life. A single sentence punctuated with a question mark can send you down a path to fulfillment. For Miguel Smith that question came from a fellow Act Six scholarship winner as he asked, “Miguel, where do your values lie?”
His answer would lead him to apply for a resident assistant position at Pacific Lutheran University where a lifetime of personal experiences would be utilized to connect and relate to first-year students.
Raised in Lakewood Washington, Smith grew up immersed in Japanese culture and tradition fostered by his grandparents. Through many years of dedication, Smith earned his Black Belt in karate.
“The biggest things karate taught me were discipline, repetition, value of practice and to treat everyone as if they were my superior” Smith said when asked about the sport. “I developed a sense of duty to my dojo, and it provided me with a second family.”
A family he highly appreciated because from the age 4 to 15, Smith lived with his single mother. After what Smith called “many mental and physical changes,” his mother rushed into marriage with a man he didn’t know.
“Within two weeks he was sleeping over and two months later they were married.” Smith continued, “He didn’t appreciate me as a valuable family member.”
Years of a rocky relationship between Smith and his Stepfather forced Smith into the house of his grandparents to finish high school. Smith recalls,
“My grandparents were actively involved in my life; they provided a place of love and led by example.”
Even with the support of his grandparents, Miguel knew he was on his own when it came to getting into college. He then heard about the ACT SIX scholarship, “The Northwest’s only full-tuition, full-need scholarship for emerging urban and community leaders who want to use their college education to make a difference on campus and in their communities at home” according to the Act Six initiative.
Smith received the scholarship at no surprise to close friend Ashely Hill, “Miguel is one of the most responsible and caring individuals I have ever met” she said.
A year into his college career, Smith felt he was meant for more than his job at a Lakewood Safeway was providing him. After discussing his potential as a leader with Mycal Ford, the fellow Act Six scholar previously mentioned and a Fulbright recipient, Smith decided to apply for a resident assistant position at Pacific Lutheran University.
“It lit a spark under me” said Smith. “Now my strengths are being utilized and I have an opportunity to be a mentor.”
Smith was hired to supervise a mixed wing of not only first-year, but first year and first generation students to act as a resource and mentor throughout their time on campus.
“I’m a multi- racial, multi-cultural, male son of parents who moved between three different houses. I am made up of strong Japanese values, a strong attitude toward owning identity and valuing differences of others.” Miguel said when asked about his life, “I don’t know why I was chosen, but someone must have thought I was qualified.”
That person was Resident Director Joseph Kowalzyc. He said “One of Miguel’s most outstanding qualities as an employee and RA is his willingness to be himself. It’s been cool to see him pour his enthusiasm, curiosity, confidence, care of the job, and care for other people into the position.”
Even Smith’s residents agree that his greatest assets to them are his life experiences and willingness to share them.
“Miguel is definitely authoritative in a good way and if something needs to be dealt with, he’ll handle it. After he showed us his karate moves at a meeting, I paid closer attention to what he said!” One of Smith’s residents Russell Blanchard said.
Isaiah Collins, another resident added “he (Smith) keeps it real.”
It appears that as people go through struggles in their life, they can turn those struggles into lessons that help others later on. This rings true in the case of Miguel Smith.
“I’m making the most of my time.” Smith said “It’s very fulfilling.