Student Spotlight: Victor Corral

Victor Corral

Biology major follows dream after dangerous times in Mexico

Victor Corral, 20, of West St. Paul, Minnesota, loved his hometown in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. All his friends lived close by in his neighborhood in Meoqui, a town of 22,000 with a history that includes the arrival of Spanish explorers in the mid-1500s. At age 15, Victor was doing well in school, excelling at volleyball and soccer, and planning for a bright future as a college student. But all around him, Meoqui was a battlefield. Two powerful drug cartels were waging war and his family got caught in the middle.

Plaza de la Constitución in Meoqui

Plaza de la Constitución in Meoqui

“Meoqui is divided by railroad tracks with Los Zetas on one side and Sinaloa on the other,” Victor said. “We could hear shooting in the night. Our town was a very dangerous place to live.”

Cartel gunman wouldn’t target non-cartel locals on purpose, but they had no issue with killing anyone who wandered into their line of fire. Collateral damage was business as usual. At the time, the state of Chihuahua was leading all Mexico in the number of drug-related murders. The high point was 3,000 deaths in 2010. To give some perspective, U.S. military deaths during the War in Afghanistan total just over 2,300 since 2001. In 2010, the female police chief of Meoqui, a former lawyer, was shot dead by cartel assassins.

One summer day that same year, Victor’s father and mother, Oscar and Alba, took the family on vacation to Minnesota. When the time came to return to Meoqui, Oscar asked his children if they liked living in the United States. As it turned out, the vacation was not a vacation at all, but a permanent move.

Police roadblock in Meoqui in 2010

Police roadblock in Meoqui in 2010

At first Victor was angry. He was all set to enroll at Prepatoria 20-30, a prestigious high school in Delicias, Chihuahua. 20-30 had partnerships with a number of top colleges in Mexico, including the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, one of the best schools in the country.

“I was aiming for Monterrey Tech,” Victor recalled. “I would play volleyball there and study biochemistry. That was my ambition.”

Victor forgot his anger the moment his father told him the real reason the family had left Meoqui.

“My father owned a mechanic shop and one of the cartels showed up and told him he had to work on their vehicles for free,” Victor said. “My father had no choice. The big cartels had an easy time taking over small towns like Meoqui. The cartel would kill our entire family if my father refused.”

The situation became even more perilous when rival cartel members discovered that Oscar had been “hired” by the opposition. They gave him three options: Stop working for their enemy and die, keep working for their enemy and die, or close up shop and leave Meoqui forever.

Victor had his work cut out for him in his new life. When he started 9th grade at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, his English was nonexistent. He couldn’t read, write, speak or understand the language. He threw himself at his English Second Language (ESL) courses. He not only mastered English, but maintained a 3.9 GPA. He was selected captain of the school’s soccer team and also participated in track and Nordic skiing. He graduated from Henry Sibley in 2014.

Victor after speaking at Legacy Alumni event at the college

Victor after speaking at Legacy Alumni event at the college

Today, Victor is a freshman at Inver Hills Community College, earning an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree with an Emphasis in Biology. He is making plans to transfer to a four-year school after graduating from Inver. He’s looking forward to following a higher education track that will lead him to a Ph.D. in biochemistry, microbiology or genetics. His long-range goal is to work as a research scientist in a corporate setting.

While at Inver Hills, Victor has received three scholarships, a $1,000 Add It Up scholarship and two $2,000 Xcel Energy STEM scholarships. He greatly appreciates the financial assistance.

“The scholarships changed my mentality about the way I view college,” he said. “When I look for help, I know it’s going to be there.”

Victor Corral Q&A

Q. Why did you choose Inver Hills?

A. A friend told me about the opportunities at the college, and I also knew I could save money and then transfer.

Q. Why have you chosen science as a career path?

A. I’ve always liked the idea of becoming a Ph.D. in a scientific field. My parents are happy that I like science and think it’s good for me. I really liked biology in high school.

Q. What makes you happiest?

A. Making new friends and making new connections.

Q. What is your favorite place in the world?

A. Meoqui, I was raised there. I loved the desert and being outdoors.

Q. How would you describe yourself as a college student in three words?

A. Critical thinker, rational, brave (okay, more than three)

Q. What do you do in your free time?

A. Read. I’ll read anything.

Q. What advice would you give your classmates at Inver?

A. Work hard enough and it will pay off in the end.

To learn more about earning an Associate of Arts (A.A) at Inver Hills, contact:

Admissions Team
College Center

To learn more about scholarship opportunities, contact:

Gail Morrison
Executive Director
Inver Hills Foundation

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