Associate in Arts
Miguel Blancas-Alejo was born in Chavinda, Michoacán, Mexico. At the age of five his family moved to Quincy, Wash. Growing up Blancas-Alejo often felt discriminated against due to the color of his skin. He was kept in an English Language Learners program that allowed for only limited interaction with his native English-speaking peers, adding to his feelings of isolation and lack of acceptance.
Based on his experiences at a very young age, Blancas-Alejo began to realize that changes needed to be made in his community. His passion for public service emerged while volunteering at the Quincy Community Food Bank during a school break. That desire to help others has shaped Blancas-Alejo’s determination to make an impact in his community.
“While working as a volunteer I witnessed food insecurity across all social-economical groups and the importance of this resource,” he stated.
Blancas-Alejo’s desire to give back led him to volunteer during his junior and senior years of high school as a medical assistant at Quincy Valley Hospital’s emergency room and convalescent center, which serves a community that lacks access to healthcare. As a volunteer firefighter for Grant County Fire Protection District 3, he saw how important unity is for communities during natural disasters. In 2001 Blancas-Alejo became the youngest person to serve as a board member for Upper Columbia Basin Habitat for Humanity — a role in which he was able to witness how many people were affected by homelessness. In 2009, he moved to Yakima, Wash. and began working as a firefighter for Yakima County Fire Protection District 12, later joining the Yakima Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit.
“Through the work of these local organizations, I saw the impact that public service played through advocacy, policy change, reform and simply listening,” Blancas-Alejo continued.
Wanting to expand his ability to help others, Blancas-Alejo enrolled at Yakima Valley College in January 2019 to work on his prerequisites to pursuing a law degree. With the confidence of his peers, he was quickly selected to serve on the student government.
“Upon starting at YVC I immediately noticed a lack of food service on campus. The campus was busy from early morning through later afternoon as well as busy streets around the campus. During class, I could hear many of the students making noises due to the lack of nourishment before class. I surmised that the campus had a food insecurity issue, which affected the college community,” he continued.
During this time he also began volunteering at the Rotary Food Bank and noticed how drastic food insecurity was throughout the Yakima Valley.
Blancas-Alejo got to work doing research on how to establish campus food pantries on both the Yakima and Grandview campuses. The student council partnered with the Rotary Food Bank, YVC Transfer Club and YVC Connections Bridge Club to help identify students in need. After almost a year of work, in January 2020 the students and administration of the college secured funds and locations for food pantries on both campuses. Blancas-Alejo, along with fellow members of the student life office, were able to secure food from OIC of Yakima to help supplement the number of nutritious food options available on campus for students and community members.
In November of 2019, Blancas-Alejo realized another dream when he became a United States citizen. Becoming a citizen enables him to continue to advocate for change without the fear of retaliation. He states, “Being a citizen means I can now speak for those oppressed and work to make changes for the greater good. It’s one thing to have a voice; it is another thing to have a voting right to be part of the changes. Now that I am a citizen, the fear of speaking out is gone and I have gained courage knowing that what I do on a daily basis is helping and improving the lives of others.”
While serving on the student government Blancas-Alejo and his fellow officers also worked to unite the student government offices on the Yakima and Grandview campuses. Blancas-Alejo and his peers advocated to create a new position to increase student support on the Grandview Campus.
In October of 2020, Blancas-Alejo suffered a full retinal detachment of his eye which required emergency surgery. Due to the type of surgery and needed care, he had to temporarily relocate during a global pandemic over two hours away.
“I was four weeks into the quarter and needed to complete the coursework [when my retina detached]. I was able to complete all but one of my classes with high grades while being almost blind during my recovery,” he stated.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and while in recovery, Blancas-Alejo continued to find opportunities to give back. He participated in student life and volunteered as much time as possible participating in the online lobby which allowed students and prospective students to connect with resources at YVC. He also volunteered with the local food bank which operated a drive-through food distribution and volunteered as a legal assistant intern for the Volunteer Attorney Services of Yakima, where he helped complete client intake for community members seeking legal assistance.
Despite this set back, he graduated in spring 2021 with his associate degree from Yakima Valley College. In the fall 2022 he plans to transfer to a Gonzaga University and pursue a law degree.
Blancas-Alejo was also recently selected to participate in a 15-week internship with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). He is one of over 100 students accepted nationally to HACU’s National Internship Program.
“My academic and career goals are to continue fighting for social justice through public service. I have learned [that] through educating and advocacy we help expand critical thinking and promote celebrating our differences,” he concluded.