Mike Hidalgo

MA in Youth Studies

Class of 2020

Mike Hidalgo
"If you were accepted into a program here, you belong here. And if you are passionate about the field you are in, then you can shape it for the better.”

What were some of the most defining aspects of your time at CUNY SPS?

I remember stepping into my very first class at CUNY SPS as a 22-year-old, straight out of undergrad, and looking out a field of champions in youth development.  Every single person in that room, including my professors and future peers, were older and more experienced than I was. I had to quickly decide if I was going to shrink because of intimidation, or let this field I had been planted in help me blossom into who I was meant to be. I chose the latter and have never looked back. From day one, my peers were not just emotionally supportive, but they also provided me with practical advice, open doors, and life-changing example. Between that, and the investment of my professors, I accomplished and grew in my three years at CUNY SPS in ways I didn’t know were possible.

What is the best piece of advice, or most important thing you learned at CUNY SPS?

If it needs to be done, and you can do it…do it. That’s the best piece of advice I have from my time at CUNY SPS. The fields of study at CUNY SPS are some of the most necessary and quickly growing fields in the country. If you were accepted into a program here, you belong here. And if you are passionate about the field you are in, then you can shape it for the better. The hard work stops so many people not because of laziness, but fear. You are capable, powerful, and necessary…so go get it done.

Who influenced you the most? Please feel free to include anyone from the CUNY SPS community including faculty, staff, or fellow classmates.

This is tough because the list of names is long. However, I must first and foremost give a shout out to the program director of Youth Studies, Sarah Zeller-Berkman. I met Sarah in 2016 when she was promoting the Youth Studies program at Brooklyn College in my Children and Youth Studies courses. From there, she became my professor, my advisor, my mentor and eventually my supervisor as I had the opportunity to be the Youth Studies Assistant during my last year at CUNY SPS. She shows the value of youth studies through everything she does. Professors Elizabeth Bishop and Maria Torre influenced me most regarding how to understand research and use it to contribute meaningfully to the field. And lastly, regarding career advancement, my influences were my peers, particularly Christine Boodie, Sully Diaz, Kelly Ahl, and Kris Greene – just to name a few!

How has your CUNY SPS influenced your current job, and your career overall?

Through networking opportunities at CUNY SPS, I was fortunate enough to work my way up to program director at a leading nonprofit, serve as an administrator for a leading private school, and work for CUNY itself – all during my three years of completing my graduate program. CUNY SPS helped me immediately find work after graduating and moving halfway across the country to Clarksville, TN, despite having moved in the middle of the pandemic. I currently run the S.T.E.A.M. Lab and oversee S.T.E.A.M. initiatives for the Boys and Girls Club in my area, and this fall I’ll pursue my Doctorate in Educational Leadership (EdD) at Austin Peay University.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I get to see young people achieve greatness by being themselves. What could be more rewarding? In pursuing my EdD, my entire goal is to get in the rooms where I can advocate for their voices, to not just react to policy that is made about them, but help shape and create said policy. The universal truth all people share is that at some point every person to ever exist was younger than they are now. There is a respect that should come from that fact. I get to simultaneously learn how young people express themselves AND learn from what they are expressing. It’s a great life. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

As I mentioned, I want to advocate for the youth voice by shaping youth policy at local and state levels (and eventually at a federal level), both in education and activism. As such, in five years’ time I hope to be doing so. I don’t fully know what the future holds, but I would like to also create more spaces for young people to share and publish their stories across all forms of media.


  • What show/s are you currently watching? All the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows - currently The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is wrapping up and it has been excellent. Also Invincible on Amazon Prime.
  • What is your favorite meal? Anything my mother-in-law makes - Nigerian food is wonderful.
  • What is your favorite line in a movie? “You are who you choose to be. Choose.” – Hogarth from The Iron Giant
  • Favorite or most recent book you read? "All Things to All People" by Michael Burns. It is about a faith-based approach to understanding and navigating cultural humility.  
  • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, none, all? Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Although the young people I work with really want me to get Tik Tok.
  • List 3 things you would bring to a deserted island. So difficult…at the moment, I’d say my Bible, pictures of my loved ones, and a journal that has an attached writing apparatus.

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