Kevin Mirando can often be seen strolling through campus with a pep in his step and a smile on his face, kindly greeting both strangers and friends alike. Or he might be in his office working on his next event for the Campus Activities Board, playing his guitar and belting out his own home-grown songs in the union, speaking to a group of fresh-faced first-years at NSO, or simply enjoying time with those closest to him, his friends and family. Regardless, you can always tell where he is if you just close your eyes and listen for that cheery voice we have all come to know and love.
Now you may imagine that he skipped his way out of the womb and never looked back, that the first years of his life were filled with the discoveries of new words and sounds that he put into action right away, just like any other vivacious toddler would. However, while his persistent chattiness may be a lovable staple of his personality today, many years ago, it was the exact opposite.
Mirando was not the typical toddler. He could run and play and make a mess with the best of them, but when it came to the speech department, he seemed to come up short. While other parents were celebrating the milestone of their child’s first word, the Mirando’s were worrying if he would ever have his.
“We thought that he was deaf,” his father Carl revealed.
From that moment on, Mirando’s parents did everything they could to get their son developmentally up to par. They took him to a birth-to-three program and an early childhood intervention clinic. They worked tirelessly to talk to him and teach him words, praying that one day he would conjure up a response.
Then, at age 4 during his pre-kindergarten recess time, Mirando approached his teacher and said, “I swing.” These two words were monumental enough to send her into immediate hysterics, so overcome with emotion that it resulted in tears of joy.
Though he now had the speech issue out of the way, talking still did not come naturally for Mirando. For much of his young life, he chose to remain silent in moments where he could’ve given his input. This factor led him to become the runner-up for the “Most Shy” superlative in high school. In addition to his late entrance into the social world, Mirando also felt lesser than in the physical sense.
“I always thought that my short stature would lead to how I was going to be in life. Every girl and guy I knew was taller than me. I was always the shortest in my class. I felt small physically and mentally. I felt outweighed – like the whole world was against me,” he said.
Thinking about college was a daunting task for Mirando. The thought of an entierly new environment filled with a surplus of people he didn’t know only contributed to his every-day worries. When his guidance counselor suggested he look into Springfield College, he listened and was not disappointed. He applied and was soon accepted.
At this point, Mirando had two choices. He could continue to remain a fly on the wall of life, carrying around a head full of comments and answers he just never had the courage to say. Springfield College would just have to know the condensed version of him, like the many other schools preceding it. Or, he could take a leap of faith into the social scene and finally reveal the golden personality that was always hiding inside.
During NSO weekend, Mirando’s group leader, Rob Salvaggio, said something that would be enough to inspire him to finally break the chains that had been holding him back for so long – “Being you is perfectly okay.”
That was the moment.
From then on, Mirando chose to no longer take the back seat in his own life. He started writing his own music and sharing it with the public. He became involved in various activities and clubs throughout campus. He was no longer hesitant when a conversation arose. He no longer felt like an outcast.
When he became eligible to apply for a position as an NSO leader, Mirando did not think twice. He thought back to his own experience, stating “NSO is probably the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Once he became an NSO leader, his main goal was to make his first-years feel as welcome and valued as he did from his own NSO experience. “He made me feel comfortable with transitioning into a new school. He made everything feel safe and welcoming,” said one of Mirando’s NSOers, Kasey Harrington.
While he acknowledges his past and how it helped to shape him, Mirando now chooses to look forward at what is to come. A current Physical Education and Health double major, he spends a great deal of time in the gymnasium at James Clark Elementary School as a student teacher.
“My dream is to create a more inclusive style of P.E. in which I will incorporate every-day values into the lessons in a way that the kids can learn and enjoy themselves at the same time.”
This coming of age would not have been possible without some words of encouragement from Mirando’s favorite woman, his mother Monica.
“She always told me, ‘Each day you should be the nicest person that anyone talks to,’” said Mirando.
And now, donning confidence, compassion, and a smile that just won’t quit, Kevin Mirando does just that.