Education helped Raul Magdaleno escape his difficult childhood; now he is helping other low-income students realize the importance of education and determination.
Magdaleno and his family immigrated to the United States when he was two years old. “I found my purpose in my pain,” he said. “As a child and young adult, I experienced many hardships, but it built my character. All this has influenced my career ambition to believe in others and help them find their purpose through education.”
The youngest of 10 children, he was the first person in his family to graduate from high school and college. Magdaleno attended Mountain View College in Dallas, Texas, maintained a 3.9 GPA while working full time, and was valedictorian of his class.
In 2004 Magdaleno was awarded the U.S. Congressional Award Gold Medal—Congress’s highest civilian service award for youth—for his more than 30,000 hours of community service work helping victims of domestic violence, promoting the benefits of education at local elementary schools, and tutoring children. That same year, he was named Outstanding Student at his community college and was selected as a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholar. “The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is more than just a scholarship,” he said. “It is a life experience that positions you to [as Jack Kent Cooke once said] ‘become more than your supposed best’”.
Magdaleno went on to attend Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas. During his time at SMU, Magdaleno continued to deal with hardships. After leaving his “abusive” step-father, Magdaleno, his mother, and his mentally disabled sister lived in a homeless shelter in Dallas. Magdaleno continued to work hard and remained focused on his education.
He graduated from SMU in 2006 with bachelor’s degree in corporate communication and public affairs. Magdaleno said he chose to get a degree in this field because he “wanted to understand how government, non-profits, and corporations worked in an effort to bring all of these entities together for education.”
After graduating from SMU, Magdaleno dedicated his career to empowering students through education. He became a motivational speaker and has shared his life story with over 170,000 students across the country. “My message is one of resilience,” he said. “[You should] never allow your circumstances to define your destiny.”
Furthering his efforts to share the importance of education and volunteerism, Magdaleno founded the Magdaleno Leadership Institute (MLI) in 2011. MLI is a non-profit organization that helps low-income students attend college. “I started the Magdaleno Leadership Institute because I wanted to be to others what I once needed,” said Magdaleno. The organization is built on the pillars of servant leadership, academic excellence, and civil empowerment.
Magdaleno is currently working on creating the first homeless shelter in the country for college students. In the future, he hopes to earn his a doctorate in education leadership from the Harvard School of Education, with the eventual goal of becoming president of a fortune 100 corporate foundation whose focus is education. Magdaleno’s ultimate dream, he said, is to become the U.S. Secretary of Education.