By Dedra Cordle
As a child, Miriam Velazquez never believed she had what it takes to be a leader.
She considered herself to be too quiet, too shy and too afraid to speak out in fear that someone would say something negative about her or her race. For years, she lived under the illusion that she could never be seen an as inspiration.
‘That is something that will happen to others, not you,’ is what she would say.
But as she grew, she became more confident, more willing to use her voice, and less concerned about what some people might say about her outward appearance.
“I just decided that it didn’t matter,” said Velazquez. “If someone had something to say about my race, I knew it was not a reflection on me but on them.”
With a new outlook, she blossomed in and out of the classroom.
During her first few years at Westland High School, she became involved in the Cultural Diversity Club, the Key Club, the Pencil Dust Writing Club and the Science Club. She even joined the girl’s tennis team where she would eventually become their captain.
Having excelled in the first two grade levels, she decided she wanted a different challenge and turned her sights on the business world.
In her junior year, Velazquez signed up for a business and administration course at Central Crossing High School. There, she was introduced to a nationwide, student-led organization called the Business Professionals of America.
Initially, Velazquez did not have much interest in joining the organization whose mission is to develop leadership skills in the classroom and beyond.
“I didn’t see the point of it,” she said with a laugh.
But the more she researched the Business Professionals of America, the more she liked about it. She even contemplated running for a regional officer position.
In her senior year, advisor Ryan Warner encouraged his class to aim high and campaign for a position as a state officer. If they were to succeed, he said, they would be the first South-Western City Schools student to be selected as a state officer.
Having no expectation that it could be her, Velazquez decided to run just for the experience. In October, she was named the regional secretary of the state BPA and qualified to run for a state officer position.
In late November, during their Fall Leadership Conference, Velazquez handed in her essay about discovering leadership, stood in front of a crowd of hundreds of her peers and spoke about overcoming fear and then went into a room where she was interviewed by a panel of three judges.
Upon her completion of this rigorous process, she celebrated the fact that she made it this far, but tried to temper her hope that she could be selected to hold one of the six state officer positions.
After many hours of waiting, Velazquez learned that of the dozens of candidates who were vying for one of the six position, she was selected to be the vice-president of the state’s BPA.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
In shock, she made Warner bring up the website where they had posted the faces of those selected to lead. Sure enough, she saw a picture of herself.
“It was my face there,” she said.
Warner said he and her fellow classmates were less surprised by the results than Velazquez was.
“We have always seen her as a leader and an inspiration,” he said.
As her official duties as the Vice-President of the state’s BPA, Velazquez is required to attend monthly leadership training sessions to enhance the skills she already has. She will also be tasked with planning and conducting an upcoming Leadership Conference as well as the Fall Leadership Conference. Velazquez will also represent the state at the National Leadership Conference in Orlando in May.
In an unofficial capacity as vice-president, Velazquez said she will focus on encouraging students in the district to become involved in the BPA.
“I think it’s a terrific organization and I want to help expand its numbers and increase the participation in it,” she said.
Warner said he has no doubt that she will succeed in her mission and find success in any endeavors she may take on in the future.