Growing up in an Orphanage
Fuels Student’s Interest in Nonprofit Work

By Becky Kramer

After graduation, Veronica Miranda wants to work for overseas nonprofits, helping them develop business ventures to provide stable funding for their work

Veronica Miranda made herself a promise during the five years she spent in a Mexican orphanage: She would return to the United States to get a college degree.

Now a senior at WSU’s Carson College of Business, Miranda, 22, is closing in on her goal. She’s on track to graduate in December 2020 with a double major in international business and entrepreneurship.

After graduation, Miranda wants to work for nonprofits in other countries, helping them develop business ventures to provide stable funding for their outreach work. Her career goals grew out of her life experiences.

“Before I moved to the orphanage, I didn’t know anything about nonprofits or orphanages—I thought only kids in movies went to orphanages,” Miranda says. “While I was there, I got to see the operational side. I found it really interesting.”

Her insider’s view included the funding challenges faced by donor-based organizations.

“Giving fluctuates,” Miranda says, “and these organizations have kids to feed and communities to help all year long. I want to help them develop opportunities to broaden their financial support.”

Passionate About College

Miranda was born in San Antonio. When she was 10, her mother moved her and her younger siblings from Texas to Mexico to be closer to relatives. Eventually, her mother was unable to care for the children, and they were placed in an orphanage in Guadalajara.

The orphanage provided a safe, secure environment for the siblings, says Miranda, who still keeps in touch with the directors. But with 75 children to care for and a small staff, there was always work to do.

Miranda quickly took on responsibilities, supervising younger children, helping prepare meals, and using her bilingual skills to translate for English-speaking volunteers. She often thought about her future.

“I knew I wanted to come back to the United States and go to college,” she says. “I was very passionate about that.”

A New Start in Washington

When Miranda was in high school, a Washington couple became the legal guardians for her and her two siblings, allowing them to return to the United States.

Miranda graduated from high school in Woodinville. Without resources to pay for college, she knew she’d have to rely on scholarships and student aid.

“I literally googled ‘How to go to college’ during my senior year in high school,” she says. “I applied for 64 scholarships, and I would not be here without financial help.”

When Miranda arrived on the WSU campus in Pullman, she immediately felt at home. “I’m from Texas, so I’m a big football fan,” she says.

Through WSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship, she formed connections with other students interested in business startups. Miranda is currently the president of the Entrepreneurship Club, and she also works as an intern at the University’s Academic Success and Career Center.

“We have a number of students who are interested in social entrepreneurship,” says Marie Mayes, director for the Center for Entrepreneurship. Miranda stands out because “she has on-the-ground experience.”

Making Good on Her Promise

During her college years, Miranda has visited more than a dozen countries. Her international travel opportunities came through internships, study abroad experiences, and mission trips.

Miranda was a summer intern in Haiti for Partners in Action, where she developed a five-year budget for a coffee shop and worked with local residents on a gift shop venture. Both projects will help provide an additional revenue stream for a Haitian nonprofit that runs an orphanage and community center, Miranda says. In Malawi, she did mission work with the faith-based organization Young Life.

Miranda also spent a semester in Paris studying entrepreneurship through a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship. The award is funded by the U.S. Department of State to provide study abroad opportunities for students of limited financial means.

Miranda also was awarded the Boeing e-Connect Scholarship and the James Huber Memorial Entrepreneurship Scholarship. Along with a Washington State Need Grant, those scholarships and others have covered most of her tuition and living expenses.

“When I was in the orphanage, if someone had told me, ‘Hey, you’ll be going to college in Pullman and doing a study abroad in Paris,’ I never would have believed it,” Miranda says.

“Scholarships allowed me not only to get an education, but to have a great educational experience,” she says.