Israel Vidales

First-generation Latino student Israel Vidales Blazes a trail

July 2011 - As a child, Israel Vidales lived in a small apartment off Dearborn Street in Caldwell, Idaho. He remembers walking the city sidewalks with his mother and looking at The College of Idaho campus. No one from the Vidales family had ever gone to college, but something about the school caught Israel’s attention.

“I distinctly remember thinking ‘I’m going to go to that college,’ ” Vidales said. “I didn’t know why or how back then, but I did know I wanted to expand my educational horizons.”

Vidales’ dream came true. He worked hard, got good grades and graduated from Nampa High School in 2007. He came to The College of Idaho as a Gates Millennium Scholar, a prestigious honor awarded to 1,000 American students every year.

Today, he is a senior studying international business and leadership. Vidales remains a dreamer — he hopes to study in South America next year and eventually earn a doctoral degree in public health — but he has earned the right to think big. He is a first-generation student, and this trail is his to blaze.

“I have a lot of self-motivation,” Vidales said. “I’ve watched my family struggle through life. Most of them don’t even have a high school diploma. They are still living with my grandma, still making minimum wage. Seeing those struggles makes me want to raise the bar and make something better for myself.”

Vidales certainly is improving his life and the life of his family — his younger brother, Zacharias, also is pursuing a college degree.

He also has worked to improve lives in the surrounding community — he started a new student organization, The College of Idaho Food Bank, which distributes extra food from the C of I campus to local needy families.

Many other beneficial programs have been started and are managed primarily by Latino students.  Among these are Association for Latino Americano Students (ALAS), which has become one of the most active student groups on campus, organizing a variety of events including leadership conferences for high school students, mentoring for young Latinos and annual Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

“The Latino community is very close-knit,” said Arnold Hernandez, director of multicultural affairs at C of I. "These kids are not going to let each other fail."