Miguel was the first student to join the Operation Graduate tutoring program during its launch in 2011 and stayed in the program through his high school graduation in May 2018. Operation Graduate focuses on on-time high school graduation, targeting two groups of students. One takes credit recovery classes, so they can graduate with their peers; the other group is introduced to college and work experiences.
“I began because of my mother, she was the one who pushed me to try it. I was doing really badly in school and I wasn’t really attending class much at all.” Nathaniel Ramsey, United Way Suncoast Center Manager for Operation Graduate at the time, was instrumental in emphasizing the importance of class attendance. “Mr. Ramsey inspired me to keep going to school and stay on top of schoolwork – mostly because I didn’t want to get in trouble with him,” he joked. “He threatened to call the cops on me if I didn’t keep going.” Miguel’s hard work has paid off, as he is the first in his family to finish high school and go to college.
Following graduation, Miguel participated in St. Petersburg College’s Summer of Success (SOS) Program, a 6-week “introduction to college” program for graduating seniors from Pinellas County high schools. Habits and lessons he learned within Operation Graduate have helped him in his classes. “Time management, for sure. I also wasn’t strong in English, then Ms. Paula (Paula Kay, Sr. Manager of Neighborhood Initiatives) helped me and now in SPC we have to write a lot of essays and that experience helped me out a lot.”
For students currently in high school who may struggle, Miguel has his own advice. “I would recommend the Operation Graduate program. It helped me a lot in ensuring I understood my classwork and subjects. Before, I didn’t care and didn’t see the point in going to class, but Mr. Ramsey sat me down and talked to me and made me understand what I could accomplish with a high school and college degree.”
Miguel has completed his freshman year at St. Petersburg College with plans of one day being a lawyer.
Operation Graduate, in Clearwater’s North Greenwood neighborhood, is a partnership between United Way Suncoast, the Clearwater Police Department, Pinellas County School District, and St. Petersburg College.