Miguel Urbina was 16-years-old when his grandmother died. While looking at his mother’s pain, because she wasn’t able to travel back to Mexico and bury her mother because she was undocumented, he made a decision to one day grant his parents the means to travel to their home country.
For Urbina, a 26-year-old communications senior, the military was the answer. He joined the military at 21 and is now working on his bachelor’s degree while he is a battalion commander for the Reserve Officers Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) at CSUN and six other schools.
“I remember when my grandparents passed away, my mom couldn’t go back to Mexico to bury her mother. This was a definite struggle for my parents to come here,” Urbina said. “My parents leaving everything back in Mexico and saying they want a bigger and better future drives and motivates me to want more in life.”
He has been on active duty with the U.S. Army for five years. He was stationed in North Carolina’s Fort Bragg base but has not been deployed overseas.
“The Army has allowed me to go to school for two years with the R.O.T.C. program,” Urbina said. “I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the U.S. Army and here at CSUN with the (R.O.T.C.) program as well.”
When Urbina finished high school, he decided to work for a printing company where his father worked. He worked there for a couple of years, but eventually felt he needed to see more in life.
Due to his undocumented status, Urbina was unable to apply to four-year colleges, join the military at that time or apply for financial aid.
Once he graduated high school, he found himself asking, “Where do I go now?” Due to his status he admits to having been bitter.
“I know I could do better than just be at a community college if I was legal,” Urbina said.
After the 9/11 attacks, while at Pasadena City College, Urbina felt even more powerless because he couldn’t go out and join the military right away. In 2003, once he was able to join, all the scenes from the United States invading Iraq made him want to join even more.
“For anyone to volunteer into the Army while we are at war, it says a lot about a person,” Urbina said.
That was one of the contributing factors to Urbina’s decision to join. While others ran away from enlisting in the army, he was drawn to it.
Along with the pride and joy of being able to join the U.S. Army, Urbina was given U.S. citizenship a year after he joined. But that was nothing compared to the gift he was able to give his parents soon after.
“A year and a half after I became a citizen, I was able to bring my parents and brother legally into the United States,” he said.
Now, his parents live in Los Angeles as California residents. For his mother, Maria Urbina, his achievements have been tremendous. She, along with the whole family, is proud of his accomplishments.
“It is a big honor for me as a mother to see my child, an immigrant child, accomplish what he has and what he will accomplish,” Maria Urbina said.
Growing up in Northeast Los Angeles, Urbina believes he did a good job in staying away from all the temptations that were around him. He never fell into the drugs or gangs that surrounded him daily. A huge portion of that was due to his parents and the family values they instilled in him.
“My parents and family values are what kept me in line,” he said.
Looking back to his younger years, he recalls there being “definite temptations,” but he, like his mother, believes he made the right decision.
As the second oldest of four brothers, Urbina always felt he needed to be a role model for his younger siblings.
“Living in East L.A., there are so many opportunities for a child to stray away,” Urbina said. “To keep my little brothers away from the streets has always been important for me.”
For his younger siblings, Urbina is a role-model figure. He has made it clear to his brothers of their opportunities and shown them if he can do it, so can they.
“I am extremely proud of what my brother has done. To grow up where we did, with all the obstacles and challenges and to overcome that, it’s amazing,” said Diego Urbina, one of Miguel Urbina’s younger brothers.
For Diego Urbina, Miguel has awaken that feeling of wanting more out of life. Diego knows how much of an impact Miguel has had on him and revealed that he has received that inspiration to push himself and do better, to make his older brother proud.
“He has guided me in every way,” Diego Urbina said.
Joining R.O.T.C. and the military has definitely given Miguel the opportunity to inspire his brothers even more.
In R.O.T.C., Urbina ranked 79 out of 5,000 other cadets. He also received the Green to Gold Scholarship that is given annually to only 200 people in the Army.
First Lieutenant Sid Mendoza, U.S. Army Scholarship and Enrollment Officer, has been working with Urbina this semester, and has already seen his leadership capabilities.
One of the reasons he stood out from the rest was because his own peer groups look up to him and give him high marks, Mendoza said.
“A good leader has cadets that will follow you because they want to, not because they have to, and he (Miguel) has that.”
The R.O.T.C. program has been a leadership program for Urbina, which has given him the opportunity to go to school fully paid, and allowed him to devote as much time as he can to school and the program.
Along with the perks also comes more commitment. Miguel not only has his regular classes to worry about, but twice a week he has physical training starting at 6 a.m. He has a mandatory class on Fridays that includes practical military training and once a week he has a military science class.
“It adds a little more to a typical college workload,” he said.
Once Urbina graduates in May, he plans to go back into the military’s intelligence program and eventually go back to graduate school. He has four years left to serve in the U.S. Army.
“The military is like every other opportunity out there, it isn’t for everybody,” he said.