EDINBURG - Recent high school graduate Michael Mireles will be in New York on Saturday, June 17, to give a TED-Ed talk about his experience growing up in the Valley. TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, is a media organization that posts lectures, or “talks,” about various subjects from expert speakers, with their TED-Ed division featuring students. As their tagline suggests, Mireles was picked for his “lesson worth sharing.”
Mireles, who graduated this spring from IDEA Quest College Preparatory came from humble beginnings.
“I was raised with five other family members; I was the youngest … raised by my grandparents. They were both migrant workers,” Mireles said. “My parents … were never in the picture … We relied a lot on government checks and everything.”
Early on, his grandfather instilled in him the importance of an education, something Mireles never took for granted. Once he started attending IDEA, Mireles took full advantage of the opportunities the school offered. He was part of the National Honor Society, Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica (Spanish National Honor Society), Future Business Leaders of America, and the Junior State of America.
While a junior, Mireles become a Bezos Scholar, one out of 12 students selected each year to participate in the Aspen Ideas Festival, a week-long event where global thinkers gather to discuss current issues. As a Bezos Scholar, he was also awarded a $1,000 grant to create a local festival inspired by the one in Aspen to transform his community.
“I started talking to my educator about what we wanted to do. We realized that there was a really negative perspective that younger people have on the Valley, you know, a lot of high school students just want to leave, and we didn’t see it that way,” Mireles said. “So, we decided we wanted to show them … what the valley has to offer.”
With the help of fellow classmates, guidance from his teachers, and $16,000 in sponsorships, Mireles went on to establish the South Texas Ideas Festival (STXi). The festival, which was held in March at the Mission CEED, featured Valley leaders who spoke about the area and the opportunities here. In between speakers were fun events like a fashion show and a demonstration by an American Ninja Warrior.
As one scheduled speaker was unable to attend the festival at the last minute, Mireles was asked to take his place and give some closing remarks.
“My idea for the actual talk itself was kind of really talking about the drive that we all had as a team to make the festival happen. And from there, I kind of really reflected on my experiences as a kid and the drive that I saw in the community beyond the festival,” Mireles said.
His speech was recorded and submitted to TED-Ed by one of his teachers.
“They liked what I said at the festival, and they feel that, while it was focused on the Valley and people from the Valley, the overall message was really, you know, to go through with your ideas and not let anything hold you back,” Mireles said.
His accomplishments are a testament to his message. Mireles has since been named a U.S. Presidential Scholar - one out of 161 high school seniors in nation - and will be honored in Washington DC the day after his TED-Ed talk. In the fall, he will be joining the Ivy League by attending Brown University’s medical school.
Despite moving away, he is not abandoning his baby. Mireles applied to have STXi set up as a non-profit and will continue to work with school officials for next year’s festival. He is also starting a podcast to highlight great people and organizations in the Valley.
Humble beginnings or not, Mireles has blazed a path for himself that few have done. Although he is uncertain about his future career, it’s inspiring to know that whatever he decides, he will see it through.
To watch live stream Mireles’ TED-Ed talk on June 17, go to livestream.com/TED/TEWJune2017. The talk will also be uploaded online at the TED-Ed website.