Making Family History: Jose Miranda ’25 on Baile Folklórico, Mentorship, and the Importance of Putting Yourself out There
The Sports Management major is a first-generation college student who aspires to work with the San Francisco 49ers. Ultimately, he says, it’s students in the High Potential Program and faculty who have given him the confidence to risk and succeed.
When Saint Mary’s was established in 1863, its founder had first-generation students in mind. Joseph Alemany, San Francisco’s first archbishop, envisioned a college for the “children of Miners, Mechanics, and Agriculturists,” the working people of the fledgling state.
According to the most recent data, around one in three Saint Mary’s students today are trailblazers, the first in their family to pursue a college degree. For many first-generation students—“First-Gens,” as they often refer to themselves—the journey to and through college brings unique struggles—and surprises. We regularly ask First-Gen Gaels to share, in their own words, their history, hopes, and advice for the next generation.
Meet Jose Miranda ’25, a third-year student majoring in sports management. He’s a Resident Advisor, former High Potential Program mentor, Club Sports Student Coordinator, and professional Baile Folklórico dancer—which are all ways he has engaged himself across and beyond the Saint Mary’s community. Proud of his roots, he loves expressing Mexican culture mainly through dance, striving to connect with others and inspire them to push themselves out of their comfort zone—something he has learned from the mentors in his life.
Bay Area Roots
I grew up on the east side of San Jose, about 50 miles from Saint Mary’s. I love the Bay Area. My parents have been married for about 22 years now, and I have a younger sister who is in her first year of high school. I've always felt like a role model for her, just trying to do everything the right way. My parents have always been very supportive of my academics and my extracurriculars, like my passion for basketball and dance. That’s true with my sister, too.
Love at first shirt
I took a field trip to the Saint Mary’s campus when I was in fourth grade, and this is one of the only colleges where I ever bought a shirt! It had Saint Mary’s Basketball written on it, and it was one of my favorite shirts. When it came time to look for colleges, I knew I wanted to stay in California but not too close to home, to find some independence. I also didn't want a big school where the professors don't know your name. I want the professor to know who I am and to have an impact on my life.
Close bonds at SMC
Rashaan Alexis Meneses MFA ’06, who was my English teacher my first year, is an example of someone I have that special SMC bond with. She made me feel cared for and showed me that I deserved to be at college. Her approach to teaching, along with her accepting character, made me feel welcomed in a community where, at first, I was struggling to fit in. She prioritizes making sure her students feel capable of expressing themselves through their writing. She has a very kind heart, which was very apparent to me when I first met her. She helped me to get out of my comfort zone and find more confidence in my writing, which in turn allowed me to believe in myself more.
She has written many letters of recommendations for me, and I feel very comfortable going to her to speak about anything on my mind. If I see her around campus, I stop to say hello, check in on how she's doing, and she checks in on me, too. It's a bond that I'm really thankful for.
The High Potential Program is another program that has supported me in many ways. My first-year HP mentor, Arturo Fernandez ’23, really guided me in a way that allowed me to take advantage of opportunities here. My second year here, I became a mentor because of the impact that it had on me. I had to step down this year because of another position that opened up for campus Club Sports, where I'm the new coordinator. New opportunities are presented, and sometimes you have to make tough decisions, but you never forget the memories and the impacts experiences have on you.
Dancing Baile Folklórico
I dance baile folklórico—a traditional Mexican dance—which for me is my biggest passion. My elementary school had a dance group. I saw them dancing one time, and in the first grade I told my parents I wanted to join it. From there it took me three years to realize that I was actually really good at it, and that it was truly a passion. I joined a professional group, Los Mestizos de San Jose, and I've been dancing with them for over 10 years. I do consider myself a talented dancer, driven mainly through my love for my culture. People that know me know that I'm heavy on my Mexican culture and I love to represent it.
Dance has also really allowed me to put myself out there. Using my feet, my footwork, and my expressions when I'm onstage is something that just comes naturally to me. And when we’re onstage, we yell and we show excitement because we're just happy to be out there. Down the line, I could see myself possibly even starting my own little group.
Sports management and the 49ers
My second biggest passion is sports. I started at Saint Mary's as an Exercise Science major, thinking that I wanted to be a physical therapist. But I realized I was more of a business type of guy who loves working with everything behind the scenes in sports systems. I saw the Sports Management major and thought, “This is actually a combination of a business major and sports, which is the perfect major for me.” I'm also planning to start the Sports Management master’s program here the summer after I graduate and aiming to finish that in May 2026.
After I finish the program, I plan to reach out and try to work with the 49ers. I have contacts with a nonprofit organization associated with the team and with the actual organization. All I know is that sports will definitely be in my future. It could be football, basketball, even hockey back in San Jose. I believe that the San Jose Sharks could learn to appreciate their fanbase a bit more and be a real powerhouse in competition. But at the end of the day, my main goal is to try and make the most of my education.
Being an RA
I take pride in being a Resident Advisor, because it's a hard process to get selected into. A lot of responsibility falls on us. We have to take care of the whole building, and make sure everyone's safe and well. We’re not hall police; we create a healthy and fun living space for first-year students. I'm in Mitty Hall, and new students come in not knowing what to expect, sometimes a bit scared. We let them know that we’re there for them. Residents that I lived with last year still come up to me and we’ll have conversations about how they're doing. The RA experience has definitely opened up my leadership skills and helped teach me how to lead by example—to show other students that we care.
Advice for his younger self
Take advantage of the opportunities that are given to you. I'm blessed to have been given a lot of opportunities in my life, but I had to learn how to use them. In high school I was afraid to take leadership roles. People told me I should have become president of my high school class, but I didn’t do it. I took other leadership roles, like with the Latino Student Union at my school, but I wish I could have put myself out there a bit more. It’s about not being afraid to show the world who you are.
You might feel like it’s hard and scary, or have a fear of not fitting in, but you can’t let that take a toll. My first two weeks in college were quiet, until I actually pushed myself to get out there. Find a group that you connect with, or people who share similar passions—because from there, other doors will begin to open.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
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Sam Nobile ’25 is studying English at Saint Mary’s and serves as a student writer with the Office of Marketing and Communications.