By Jenna Koch, Associate Editor-in-Chief

During her senior year at Prospect in 1994, Martha Villegas Miranda won the WGN Extra Effort Award, which was a profile and award made to “[highlight] outstanding students].” Years later, Villegas Miranda is being awarded once again as Prospect’s distinguished alumnus for homecoming 2019.

“I really wanted to connect [with Prospect] again somehow, and somehow life gave me this opportunity.” Villegas Miranda said. 

Miranda always wanted to come back to Prospect to give back “in a way of gratitude” for everything Prospect gave to her. Before moving to Texas a year ago, she went back to all her childhood landmarks, including Prospect. It happened to be graduation day, and she used it as a way to unofficially say ‘goodbye’ to Prospect. 

“Today’s been a very emotional day to come back to a place that helped mold the person I am today,” Miranda said. 

The accomplishments that earned her the Extra Effort Award and distinguished alum title include starting Latino Club, an anti-drug and alcohol club, as well as participating in soccer, basketball, and volleyball.  

 She started Latino Club after noticing that a lot of her Latino peers were not on the path to college. The club also looked to eliminate racial tensions at Prospect, and she knew the first step would be creating a safe space “where everyone could share their story.” 

“[Latino club] was a way to help us understand who were our heroes and ‘sheroes’ of the Latino community.” She said. 

Latino club was not just her legacy on Prospect, but also a precursor to the work she would do in the future. She has worked at many universities, working in their Hispanic and/or multicultural programs. Currently, she’s working as a Senior Academic Advisor at Dallas County Community College in Dallas, Texas. 

“It was two fold. One to inspire Latino students that yes, they belong in college, but also to let people who are not Latino know that we do hold [professional] positions.” Villegas Miranda said. 

As a first generation college student, Villegas Miranda didn’t feel as prepared to apply to college as her peers. However, she took it into her own hands and began to find out what options were available and right for her. She encourages all students to “take charge of your education and find out what you need.”

“I didn’t use that adversity to stop me; I used it to strengthen me,” Villegas Miranda said. 

Her experience with adversity lead her to help students find the resources to overcome their obstacles so they can reach and complete higher education. 

“I’ve dedicated my life to helping people who were in my situation,” she said. “… I didn’t know what to do… and Prospect provided a good foundation for me to choose a career in social work but also one working at a college campus.”

You can contact Villegas Miranda at marthaempowers@gmail.com 

See the piece WGN put together on Villegas Miranda when they gave her the WGN Extra Effort Award: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i06B9sKpwnw