Education choice scholarship was 'huge' in Miguel's journey to the top of his class at Notre Dame

Jul 18 2023 • By Roger Mooney


Miguel Coste delivered the salutatorian invocation in May during graduation at the University of Notre Dame. It was a 2 minute, 49 second prayer that set the tone for the ceremony that capped a commencement weekend that took his family on an emotional roller coaster.

“So much joy,” Nordis Del Toro said. “I just broke down in tears.”

Later, Nordis approached Miguel’s scholar’s program directors to thank them for guiding her son along his journey but found herself speechless.

“I’m never speechless,” Nordis said, “but words couldn’t express how happy we are.”

Miguel graduated second in his class at Notre Dame with a degree in neuroscience and behavior. That followed four years at Jesuit High in Tampa, where he graduated in 2019 first in his class.

Miguel Coste delivers the salutatorian invocation in May during commencement ceremonies at the University of Notre Dame.

Miguel attended the private Catholic high school with the help of a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC), which is funded by corporate donations to Step Up For Students. Miguel’s grades at Jesuit earned him a QuestBridge College Match Scholarship, designed to help top-of-the-class high school graduates from low-income families attend some of the country’s best colleges and universities.

In August, Miguel will go to work at Epic Systems in Madison, Wisconsin as a technical solutions engineer.

As his college career wound down, Miguel found himself reflecting on the journey that took him from Tampa to South Bend, Indiana, and now to his job in yet another state. The journey was jumpstarted when he received the FTC Scholarship.

“I’m not at Jesuit without the scholarship,” Miguel said. “It’s an equalizer for sure. It definitely put me on the same playing field and kind of helped me get to the point that I have the same privileges and opportunities that some of my wealthier peers have and I'm very grateful for it.

“Similar to the (QuestBridge Scholarship) for Notre Dame, a Step Up For Students scholarship is paramount. It’s huge in my journey. I don’t really know who the benefactors are, but I like to thank them.”

Miguel packed a lot into his four years at Notre Dame.

He was a member of the dean’s list every semester and graduated with a 3.972 grade-point average. He was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa liberal arts and sciences honor society and was one of 20 students out of 900 applicants to receive the organization’s Key into Public Service Scholarship for academic excellence, leadership and commitment to public service. He was inducted into the Nu Rho Psi neuroscience national honor society.

During the summer of 2021, Miguel worked as an undergraduate research assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s research program in biology, developing experiments in systems neuroscience. He served as an undergraduate research assistant studying Indiana schools’ responses to COVID-19 during his sophomore year.

He spent a semester at Trinity College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland.

Miguel also spent a year on the university’s cheer team.

Graduation weekend at the University of Notre Dame was a joyous occasion for Miguel and his family.

When asked to describe those four years, Miguel said, “Beautiful, joyful,” then quickly added, “hard, but not so hard that I didn't enjoy it. It was very enjoyable. I am very grateful for my time at Notre Dame.”

His time at Jesuit, he said, prepared him for the academic challenge.

“Especially the study strategies,” he said. “That’s probably one of the things that differentiated me from some of my peers, knowing how to study, the discipline it took to take on college classes.”

Miguel’s first job out of college is working for a software company that specializes in hospitals and healthcare systems. He’ll be charged with supporting for up to six hospitals to help them solve problems related to the software. His goal is to move into public health and help those in low-income areas. He recently read a report that said 80% of health outcomes arise from outside the clinical settings.

“It’s going to be important to focus on those things like education levels, food access, food education, how people are eating, what foods are available, how walkable communities are, how safe those communities are. All those things,” he said.

Miguel spent one season on the Notre Dame cheer team.

Miguel is not sure yet which area of public health he wants to focus on, but he knows it will require more schooling and advanced degrees. This is something he has been interested in since his days at Jesuit.

“Being from a lower-income background, I realized that a lot of the people from my background are very vulnerable,” he said. “There are ways to mitigate these risks, and help people live better lives.”

Miguel has always been driven to succeed by the obstacles facing his parents and his siblings. Miguel Sr., born without the use of his left arm, was forced to retire from his job as a truck driver nearly 15 years ago because of an injury. Diabetes and arthritis forced Nordis to leave her job at a printing company.

In high school, Miguel volunteered at Tampa Bay Harvest, an organization that collects and distributes food to the hungry and homeless in the bay area. He also worked at a restaurant to help his family pay some bills.

Nordis was thrilled when Miguel aced the entrance exam for Jesuit as an eighth-grader. Four years later, the news that he had been accepted to Notre Dame brought her to tears. Watching Miguel give the salutatorian invocation in front of thousands during graduation at the university’s football stadium raised her emotion level to an all-time high.

“We always wanted what’s best for Miguel,” Nordis said. “Education was number one. We always told him get good grades and you’ll get something in life and look at him now.”

Roger Mooney, manager, communications, can be reached at [email protected].

Do you need more information about scholarships managed by Step Up For Students?

Posted By: 

Roger Mooney