In a photo of Manuel Miravete in high school, he is thin and moody looking, wears a black Lollapalooza T-shirt, tucked into his light blue jeans and a set of Converse All-Stars sneakers. His hair is shaggy and dark. He stands behind a bicycle and in front of the Proviso East welcome sign — the bike he earned as part of a student incentive program.
When he looks back on his time in Forest Park in the early ’90s, he says he’s surprised where he is today.
These days, Miravete doesn’t look all that different. He still wears his hair long and shaggy, and despite the years that have gone by, his face has retained its boyish qualities, albeit with sparse facial stubble now. The Lollapalooza shirt, however, has been replaced by a white shirt and tie, an argyle sweater and a dark sport coat. He wears glasses now, but the thick rims suggest an alternative vibe. He still looks like he could be in a rock band.
A career in the music industry, in fact, could have happened. After college, Miravete worked as a DJ for an Illinois rock station. But on a fateful trip to New York City to visit a friend, he caught a bug for the city and decided that’s where he was destined to live. It was there he caught the first wave of the Dot Com Boom, working for AOL, Myspace and Microsoft.
Miravete still lives in New York City, currently in Brooklyn, and is now an employee with Google, about as big a corporation as you could hope to work for, in the company’s advertising department, helping Fortune 500 companies reach U.S. Latinos with their messaging.
He’s a long way from where he started.
Miravete moved to Forest Park in 1986 from Mexico with his mother and sister and lived in a house in the 900 block of Dunlop Avenue with his extended family. He came to this country and overstayed his tourist visa. When he enrolled at Forest Park Middle School he was barely able to speak English.
“I learned [English] quickly though,” Miravete recalled recently. “Kids at that age, they pick things up quickly, and by the end of the year I was a fluent speaker.”
Miravete said he was briefly exposed for being in the country illegally and had to move to Lombard to live with an older cousin the summer between eighth grade and his freshman year of high school. He returned to Forest Park after the summer and his aunt, who gained her citizenship through an amnesty program in the ’80s, began the process of adopting him.
Miravete recalled being slightly nervous before his first year of high school at Proviso East. He credits Glenda Gwynn, then the school’s principal, with helping to put him on the track that would lead to his success later in life.
“It was never really brought up; I don’t think anyone really knew,” Miravete said of his immigration status in high school. “[Gwynn] said I needed to be in school, and she saw I wanted to learn, and she enrolled me for freshman year. I’m really thankful for that. They prioritized my education over what my [immigration] status was.”
Miravete said he didn’t consider his high school experience to be all that different from other students, except that he couldn’t get a driver’s license and had a hard time getting a job, due to his immigration status. That’s how he ended up working as a summer caddy at the Riverside Golf Club in 1988.
“It was a job that paid cash,” he recalled. “I really enjoyed it. But I wanted the job because I had heard of [the Evans Scholarship] and that it would pay for college. My family didn’t have the money to pay for it. Ever since I could work, I worked.”
The Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship is given to hardworking caddies and provides the student full tuition and housing for college. According to the scholarship’s website, the fund sends more than 800 caddies to college each year.
He knew early on that he wanted to attend college. He worked hard in high school, graduating 14th in his class of about 500 students, he said.
“I really took advantage of the dedication of the teachers,” he noted. “I was able to exceed because I’d ask for help, after-school tutoring, that kind of thing. It’s not because I consider myself an exceptional person.”
At age 15, Miravete was able to get a green card as a result of the adoption process and finally received his citizenship in a ceremony in New York City near the Statue of Liberty in 2001.
Miravete now has a 7-year-old son and a job he’s extremely proud of being with Google.
“Most audiences use Google platforms regularly — Google to search YouTube [etc.] — Latinos use these, too,” Miravete said. “A lot of marketers want to engage Latinos in the U.S. I provide them with the tools to do that in a relevant way.”
He enjoys Google for its corporate culture.
“Our company is fantastic. It’s a great place to work because you’re just surrounded by people who are so intelligent and so accomplished.”
When asked to review his own accomplishments and the obstacles he’s had to hurdle to achieve them, however, he quickly turns humble.
“These things that were obstacles were just a part of my life — I didn’t think of them much,” he said. “And I got help; it wasn’t a solo journey.”
For students currently attending Proviso East who might be in a similar situation, he advises knowing when to ask for help.
“The advice I have is to explore all your available options, all available resources,” he recommended. “To get a higher education, you should take advantage of all of these. There are people who will help you if you look for it and ask for it.”