GRAND RAPIDS, Mich, Dec. 12, 2023:  Jaret Jaramillo has been a trailblazer since high school when, as a senior, he made Kent City history by becoming his school’s first-ever boys soccer player to sign to play in college with a commitment to the new soccer program at Grand Rapids Community College.

He graduated in the spring of 2023 as Kent City’s all-time leader in both goals and assists, even though he missed his entire sophomore season due to injury. Now, as a first-year GRCC student he continues to thrive. He had a great first season on the pitch for the Raiders, playing in 18 games and starting 10. But, more importantly, he is getting the world-class education he had hoped for when he first signed with the Raiders.

He’s studying in the GRCC Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning/Refrigeration (HVACR) program, and those classes have been his favorites a semester into his collegiate experience. He’s also excited about the path forward, which he hopes will include first earning his associate degree at GRCC and then transferring to Ferris State University for further education before entering the workforce.

“Down the road, I see myself at a job where I enjoy getting paid good money with what I’ve learned,” he said. “And someday, hopefully I will be married happily and maybe have a small family.”

Jaramillo said he’s getting a little taste of future milestones in his life thanks to a small business his parents run that he often works at. It’s called J&A Decorating (for the first names of his father Joseph and his mother Arianna), and it offers decorating for all types of events, especially weddings and quinceañeras. The business has been part of the family for a dozen years. Jaramillo began to pitch in at a young age and now can be found many weekends helping set up and tear down for events.

He has tried to bring a similar willingness to help out to his first season of collegiate soccer where, he said, the camaraderie he experienced as part of the 2023 season was a true highlight.

“I like that everyone gets along with each other and how fast I make new friends,” Jaramillo said. “And the coaches are great people.”

That’s high praise considering his first coach, and soccer hero, is his father, a Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity employee who has been playing soccer since he was a young boy growing up in Mexico.

“He also played soccer at Sparta High School where he was All Conference, All District and All Region and then played four years for Grand Valley State University,” Jaramillo said with a small smile of pride. “He got me playing when I was seven, and I have loved it ever since.”

Jaramillo also was proud to recently receive the Community Youth Award for a Hispanic student who positively represents the Hispanic youth community and also is a role model in college. He was nominated by Lupe Ramos Montigny of the Committee to Honor César E. Chávez.

“It was an award based on an inspiring Hispanic student who puts into action the values and legacy of César E. Chávez on a daily basis,” Jaramillo said. “A student who is a positive role model for other youth in his school and his community.”

The award was presented at the Committee to Honor César E. Chávez Hispanic Excellence Scholarship and Community Awards Gala.

In the video that introduced him prior to receiving his award, Jaramillo spoke movingly about Chávez and the impact he has had on a generation of Hispanic youth.

“I think that one of César Chávez’s  values that I can relate to is sacrifice,” he said. “Something that César Chávez has done that has impacted me was when he sacrificed himself for the farmworkers, so they could have better wages and better farm working conditions. This has impacted me to serve my community because I want to better many more people’s lives and help as many people as I can.”