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Graduates Return to Share Wisdom With Current Students

During his first two years as a U.S. Naval Academy cadet, 2013 Comstock Park High School graduate Miguel Nava faced new challenges: bootcamp, juggling courses and superiors’ expectations, not to mention adjusting to life far from home.

Nava plans to graduate in 2017 from the academy, located in Annapolis, Md., and then begin a five-year military commitment. He kicked off his summer break by returning to the high school to meet with students, many he knows from his days as a Panther, to help them stay on the right path to achieve their goals.

“Bringing alumni back I think is huge,” Nava said. “It’s a great thing to see that people have gone places and done great things.”

Nava is working with Principal Steve Gough to launch a virtual mentoring program between graduates and current students. During the high-school visit, Nava was accompanied by several other recent Comstock Park graduates, friends he invited to share advice.

The mentoring program, still in the planning phase, could include a website where students can link to ACT information, tutoring and other helpful sites and connect with teachers, alumni and other professionals.

“We want to show kids through the website and alumni spotlight what they can accomplish and how they can do it,” he said.

Jake Brown, 2013 Comstock Park High School graduate, shares advice with students about adjusting to college
Jake Brown, 2013 Comstock Park High School graduate, shares advice with students about adjusting to college

Show Respect, Accept Responsibility

Nava told current juniors about his 11th-grade year at Comstock Park, when he changed his focus from playing college soccer to attending the U.S. Naval Academy, Air Force Academy or West Point. He said he set his mind on developing leadership skills. He started volunteering and studied over the summer. He raised his ACT score from a 23 to 29, which helped him get into the Naval Academy.

“(Colleges) really look at ‘What do you offer that no one else offers? What kind of diversity do you bring to the college atmosphere that no one else has?'”

He urged students to set a good example next year as seniors. “There are things you can wake up and do every day that will affect your character and the way people look at you. There are things you can improve on every single year.”

Respect everyone; build relationships; be a positive role model, he said. And tap into the knowledge base of teachers.

“You can take something positive out of every person you meet,” he said.

Gough said Nava contacted him to inquire about ways to give back. Gough said he knew students could learn from alumni so close to their age.

“One of the things that I like best about Comstock Park is the community we have here,” Gough told juniors. “The community around you cares about you. They care about the school. … The alumni come back and give a lot to this community. That makes us a very special place.”

Miguel Nava, 2013 Comstock Park graduate, brought a group of alumni to talk with high school students
Miguel Nava, 2013 Comstock Park graduate, brought a group of alumni to talk with high school students

Growing Up After High School

Nava and other alumni answered questions about college.

Jake Brown, also a 2013 graduate, said his biggest challenge was learning to balance school and social life. Brown is pursuing an engineering degree and plays football at Michigan Technological University. His advice was to get involved with campus life, make new friends and stay in touch with old ones.

“Embrace being on your own and being an adult,” he said. “Being on your own helps you grow up.”

Brown said he connects with high school students because they’re facing similar life situations.

“I want to give back and make kids aware of opportunities after high school. They listen to us a lot better than teachers,” he said.


U.S. Naval Academy

Michigan Technological University

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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