Hailey teen accomplishes several family firsts

By Jonathan Kane of the Weekly Sun

Miguel Angel Velasco has accomplished a lot of firsts — the first child in his family born in America, the first to make it to elementary school, the first to graduate high school and, now, the first to attend college. Velasco is a Wood River High School graduate who earned a 3.6 grade point average.

“My family is my passion,” Velasco said. “What’s most important to me is that I set a good example for my three siblings so that they can follow in my path.”

He set an example, in part, by working 30 hours a week at Main Street Market in Hailey while attending school and playing soccer.

No one in the Velasco family who are the age of his parents attended elementary school. They were farming at the earliest possible in their hometown of Aguascalientes, Mexico, and each of his parents had 16 siblings. Work was very important to the family survival.

As to carrying the weight of being the first to accomplish so many things, Velasco said, “At first it was cool but it was also a little nervewracking. You don’t want to let them down, so it can be a little stressful and you want your brother and sisters to look up to you. The reason I work 30 hours a week is because I want to pay for all my expenses, like phone, gas and car. I don’t really want to go to them for help. The problem is that I don’t really have any free time. My day is practically spent at school, work and then sleep. It’s not too bad but it can get dull at times. But the bottom line is that it makes me feel good about myself and I want my siblings to help and work hard and I feel like I’m doing a good job of showing them how it’s done.”

Velasco was born in Arco and moved to Hailey when he was a year old. His parents don’t speak English, so Velasco was in the first dual-immersion class at Bellevue Elementary. He started in preschool and was fluent by the second grade. Velasco speaks to his parents in Spanish and his siblings in English.

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“Being in dual immersion was really cool and I learned so much, even though it was harder because it doubled the workload,” he said. “I learned to write well in Spanish and how to analyze texts in Spanish literature, which is something you don’t learn from your parents.”

Velasco is off to Seattle Pacific University for college. “My parents are very happy for me, but they think it’s too far. We are a very close-knit family.”