Michael Mireles, first representative of the RGV for the Bezos Scholars Program, attends Aspen Ideas Festival in preparation for community event he is to host.
We were recently put in touch with a high school student from IDEA Quest College Preparatory who is participating in some truly remarkable events. Michael Mireles returned from his recent trip to Aspen, Colorado inspired to further spread what he experienced at the international Aspen Ideas Festival. Mireles and his teacher, Marcos Silva, who accompanied him on the trip, spoke with us about the selection process Mireles underwent and the resulting experience: being in the midst of renown speakers from all fields, CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, aspiring students like himself, and politicians.
Michael Mireles, now a senior at IDEA Quest College Preparatory in Edinburg, recently received a prestigious scholarship from the Bezos Scholars Program. The year-long leadership program selects only a handful of juniors from across the nation – 12, to be exact, and 5 students from Africa – to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival.
“The application process was tedious,” said Mireles, remembering how it all began. “It looked at the student’s past experiences; for qualifications that made you stand out from the thousands of applicants across the nation.” He mentioned that they not only looked at grades, but if the student wanted to change something in their community.
Michael Mireles is a well-rounded student who is in numerous clubs and school activities; so many in fact that Silva said he would have needed “an extra ten minutes to discuss all of the activities Michael is involved in.” He currently stands as President of Junior State of America and Vice President of Future Business Leaders of America for his high school chapters, among other accolades.
Returning from the trip, the Bezos Scholars Program requires that Mireles organize a local community conference in the spirit of the Aspen Ideas Festival but closer to home. The idea is to persuade and lead his community in the Rio Grande Valley toward the concept of sharing personal stories and ideas. Additionally, the opportunity to organize a large community event while still a high school student would allow him to practice his leadership qualities and prepare him for university roles.
We spoke to Silva and Mireles while they were still at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which covers a wide range of topics from arts, health, and technology. “It was crazy to be a part of it,” Mireles said. The festival brings together public figures and leaders from around the world to discuss and share their ideas on important issues and events. They toured the Aspen Institute, where they met and spoke with many faces of corporations and businesses from across the globe. Silva added that during their flight to Aspen, Colorado they sat with Maria Cristina Gonzalez Noguera, former Director of Communications to the First Lady. Importantly, Michael had the opportunity to connect with the other students from around the world, seeing as they all shared the same ideas and had the passion to better their communities as well. “I had never met other students who were as passionate as I am about creating change,” he said.
Mireles was also struck by the change of scenery; Aspen has cultivated a very different setting than that of the Rio Grande Valley. He jokingly remarked that the conference looks like “a giant outdoor IKEA store.” Aside from the minimalist but well-designed backdrop to the event, what stuck with Mireles during his time spent at the festival was that “everybody has as story, and if there is an issue we are passionate about, we as a community need to speak up and do something about it.” Silva mentioned that they were presented with questions at the festival that allowed them to reflect on what we can do to easily better the Rio Grande Valley. In discussing “What is going on now,” presenters raised questions about “What will we face in 20 years?”
With the experience of the Aspen Ideas Festival behind him, Mireles is now more focused on his main point for the future engagement with the public he is to host. He has decided the focus will be on how to best communicate ideas. “People need to share their stories,” Mireles stated, “and appreciate who they are as individuals.” He discussed concerns he faces with many of his peers wanting to leave the Valley as opposed to returning with knowledge to bolster available opportunities. Mireles said that although he may leave for a time to study and gain experience, he would like to come back to the Rio Grande Valley to support his community.
We’ll be checking in with Michael to not only reflect on what he learned on his trip, but to check in on his progress with his upcoming event!
The Bezos Scholars Program selects students from across the globe to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival at the Aspen Institute. This year-long program works with high school juniors and educators to create their own sustainable ‘Ideas Festival’ in their local area to transform their communities.