May 10, 2012
Miguel Angel Aldrete, 6th Grade
Discovery Charter Elementary School, Chula Vista
"You don't have to be an adult, or famous, to make a difference in our world," is what 12-year old Miguel Angel Aldrete told CCSA on a recent Saturday morning. And it's more than just a motto...it's his way of life. The 6th grader from Discovery Charter Elementary in Chula Vista is already a published author, an avid environmental supporter, and a humble leader to his school and classmates.
"My charter school has been really encouraging since preschool. I've always had great teachers, principals, and a lot of opportunities for leadership," said Miguel. Miguel published his first book, The Glowing Mask In Hawaii last year, the first of what he plans to be a seven-part series on the adventures of his hero "Matt Hanckers" as he searches the world for the Seven Keys to the Golden City.
Using the proceeds from his book sales to help others was an inspiration from a lesson on deforestation that Miguel had when he was in kindergarten at Discovery. He learned about the effects on animals and the environment, and wanted to do something to offset deforestation. How the book went from a dream to a reality is nothing short of inspiring.
"Miguel has always been a great student, but math and science seemed to come easier to him. To encourage him to read and write, my husband told him to write short, little fun stories of his own. One day, Miguel saw a commercial for a local convention for writers, and he asked if we could take him so that he could show his stories. My husband told him to take one of his short stories and develop it a bit more, and that we would support him to get it published. And here we are!" said Claudia Aldrete, Miguel's mother, and also a teacher at Discovery Charter.
"One of the first opportunities Miguel had to present his book to the public was last year during a gala to raise funds for our Discovery Charter's organic garden." Said Dr. Marcuca, Principal at Discovery Charter.
"The event was open to the community, and Miguel came forth and said that he would love to share all the proceeds from sales of his book to help the project. He was the guest speaker, the Mayor of Chula Vista was there, and he just dazzled everyone," added Dr. Maruca. "True to his word, he did donate all the proceeds, and the garden is a phenomenal addition to our school. We eat from it."
Other proceeds from his book also support Olivewood Gardens to promote healthy eating, and decrease childhood obesity, as well as the Trees for The Future Foundation, which help plant trees throughout the world. So far, Miguel's book has been responsible for planting over 7,000 trees in countries like Brazil, Honduras, Colombia, Philippines, India and Kenya. Miguel's goal is to reach 10,000 trees by the end of this year.
As busy as his book keeps him, Miguel is currently the student body president, safety patrol lieutenant colonel, member of the advanced math club, cast of the school drama club, an altar server for church, plays in a competitive club soccer team and is the founder of his non profit organization "Kids 4 Our World".
"Miguel is very involved in the school, and he participates in a lot of the activities that we offer. He always thinks beyond himself, and truly believes he is affecting others in a positive way," said Janelle Fiske, Miguel's teacher.
One way he inspires other students is through his work at school. Discovery requires volunteer hours from both parents and students, and both Dr. Maruca and Ms. Fiske ascertain that Miguel goes above and beyond what is expected of him.
"He doubles and triples his volunteer hours, and is always thinking about the next opportunity, visiting children cancer patients, orphanages, and supporting organic gardens. He is having such a positive influence on other students," added Dr. Maruca. Miguel's mother owes a lot of Miguel's drive to Discovery Charter Elementary.
"The school has had a big role in his life. I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child, it's not only the parents, but it also includes the school and the community. I saw that sense of community the first time I visited the campus when Miguel was ready to enter preschool, as well as wonderful teachers and every opportunity to develop a well-rounded child," said Claudia.
Miguel is in the process of completing his sequel to be titled "The Adventures of Matt Hanckers and the Mayan Prophecy". In fact, he told CCSA he is writing the final chapters. Miguel is using real data from his last trip to the Riviera Maya as a basis to write this adventure book and is working closely with an illustrator.
"I am very excited!" said Miguel.
Other honors Miguel has received include:
- First place in Chula Vista School District Speech Contest (competing against the first place 6th grade winners of 39 schools). The topic for the speech is "How can you positively Impact the world". You can view his winning speech on his website (www.kids4ourworld.org)
- Received the Descubrimiento Award at Discovery Charter Elementary (academic and citizenship award)
- Invitied by Athletes for Education to be a motivational Speaker to 3rd grade students in San Diego City Schools
- Featured in My Home Town Magazine - a local community magazine (April issue)
- Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel - Second highest rank with the city of Chula Vista Police Safety Patrol Program.
- Received the Optimist of the Year Award - based on the principles of citizenship, character, leadership and sportsmanship.
Discovery was the first charter to open in the Chula Vista area, in 1994, and the oldest in that region. Dr. Maruca says the focus of their curriculum is on STEM--Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math--because the careers of the future are in those fields.
"There's so much when you're the leader of a charter school, the ability to be innovative and be an out of the box thinker, and a visionary. But the number one reason we are here is to serve students and families. We are not about contracts or unions, we are focused on making sure our students are receiving the best education possible, and are given every opportunity to find their talents and flourish," said Dr. Maruca.