Student Spotlight: Whatever I do, I try to do to the best of my ability - Miguel DeJesus

Faculty and student at Library

Student Spotlight

Posted 3-12-15

Miguel DeJesus – Class of ‘16
Major: Liberal Arts/English

Phi Theta Kappa / Leadership Committee Coordinator
Honors Program
Founder/President, R.A.W. Poetry Club
2015 International Scholar Laureate

Scholar and Storyteller Has the Skill of an Engineer and Heart of a Poet

“Whatever I do, I try to do to the best of my ability,” says Miguel DeJesus whose soft spoken demeanor belies his drive to succeed,  a drive propelled as much by inspiration as ambition. 

Striving to make the most of his college studies, Miguel went the extra mile and enrolled in the challenging Honors Program.  “When I continue my education after PCCC,” he explains, “four-year colleges will recognize that I took honors-based courses and that will make a difference.”

Miguel is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honor society and vice president of the Leadership Committee, where he is charged with seeking out community service opportunities. “It’s important to give back,” he said, recalling the time his own family received community assistance after losing everything in a fire.

A published poet, Miguel noticed that PCCC did not have a poetry club, so he founded one and serves as its president.  Named RAW (Real Artistic Writers), the vibrant club sponsors innovative programs, one of which featured  a reading by Pulitzer Prize nominee Martin Espada, nicknamed the “Latino poet of his generation.”

This spring, Miguel is one of three PCCC students selected by the2015 International Scholar Laureate Program, which offers top college students from around the world the opportunity to travel to selected global locations for intensive study within a culturally immersive experience.

“It’s a great honor and an opportunity to network and share ideas with people from all over the word,” said Miguel, an English major who hopes to become a teacher.

The lifelong Paterson resident attended local elementary schools, where he was placed in gifted and talented programs. He loved reading and especially enjoyed his Saturday enrichment classes.  “That’s where I fell in love with drawing and poetry,” recalls Miguel.

At Passaic County Technical Institute he acquired graphic design skills and became involved in music,  forming a successful rap group with three classmates.  Named for their South Paterson roots, the South P-Nuts performed around the tri-state area, recorded a demo of their original song  “Jumpin’ Jersey,” and performed  live on the Hot 97 radio station. 

At one point, Miguel declined the opportunity for a solo musical career and decided to attend Montclair State University after high school. Then he learned his girlfriend was pregnant. “I went to work instead to support my family,” he explained. 

After years of working as a roofer, typesetter, and self-taught horticulturist, the father of four said he “had an epiphany,” when his eldest daughter, now 19, went off to college. He decided to pursue his own college degree and enrolled in PCCC last spring.

At first, Miguel majored in engineering, a field that promised a lucrative career. But he reconsidered when two English professors reignited his passion for writing.  “Professor Brian Lorio encouraged me to do what I loved,”  he said “and Professor Karen Schmidt “helped me to perfect my craft.”

 Their mentoring also inspired Miguel’s desire to teach.  “I want to be that person for others…what they were for me,” said Miguel. 

He would like to teach at either the elementary school or community college levels. “I have a natural rapport with young children,” explained Miguel, who once enjoyed playing with and reading to his own children. Now he volunteers  to read each morning to the children at the PCCC Child Care Center. 

“I choose stories that are meaningful,” he said. “ I like to ask questions to see if the kids understand the lesson of the story and hear what they have to say.”

That personal relationship between teacher and student is what Miguel finds so appealing about community college.   He was especially gratified by the NJC4 project,  a week-long drive in which PTK members urged fellow students to stay on the path to college completion.

 “I enjoy talking to students and encouraging them,” said the future educator.   “I find that very rewarding.”