MINOT, N.D. • For most people, at a young age you aspire to be a firefighter, a cowgirl, or even an astronaut. Those people tend to grow up and change those dreams to do something more mainstream.

That isn’t that case for senior Michael Sandoval.

Originally from Plentywood, Mont., Sandoval and his family moved to Garrison creating opportunities for Sandoval to pursue his dreams.

“I did my first two years of college at Williston State College and when it came to deciding where I wanted to transfer to, Minot State University offered what I wanted and was a smooth transfer because of the North Dakota University System (NDUS),” Sandoval said.

Now as a senior at Minot State, Sandoval is excited for his future to finally come together after his four years of higher education.

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“My major is mathematics, and the focus of what I am studying is not so much for education purposes, but more so for theoretical purposes and applications in statistics or science,” Sandoval said. “When I graduated from Williston, I earned an AS degree (Associate of Science) and upon transferring to MSU, I had just planned on further cultivating that foundation I’d spent two years on.”

Although Sandoval was always interested in space, even as a kid, there was a point in his life where he almost chose to go down a different path when choosing his career.

“I like to think that all of us have dreams, and something I realized as I got older is that it became easier to reject my own dreams and accept a more ‘realistic’ career, like engineering, teaching, or mechanics. Not that I have anything against those careers and to whoever chased their dreams and made them real in those fields, more power to you and all the best. I just knew it was not what I wanted to do,” Sandoval said.

Eventually he realized that there was a reason he had been intrigued with space his whole life and it would be a mistake for him not to follow his dream.

“It took me until my second year of college to ask myself, ‘why can’t I follow my dream?’ and realize if I didn’t at least try for it, I would regret it for the rest of my life,” he said. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right?

Striving for a career to be an astronaut does turn some heads for Sandoval, but he is grateful for his support that he’s received throughout his journey, even when he thinks he's crazy for pursuing this career.

“The responses I get when I tell most people about what I’m trying to do are truly heart-warming, motivating, and honestly unexpected. Of course, I have come across some people that thought I was joking and didn’t take it seriously, but the way I see it, I just hope I can prove them wrong,” Sandoval said.

While some might feel he wasn’t taking his career path seriously, the two most important influences — family and faculty — have been nothing but supportive.

“My math professors at Williston State College contributed greatly to my education, allowed me to further discover my potential, and strengthened my work ethic as a student,” Sandoval said. “My math professors here at MSU have been very supportive of my decisions and the direction I plan on going and have made me perform to the best of my ability so far as a student.

“Of course, my family has always been supportive of me and my decisions. They are truly proud of what I have accomplished so far and are excited for my future, more so than me at times I think.”

Sandoval hopes to continue his education by obtaining a master’s degree at the University of North Dakota and one day use his education to fulfil his dream of being an astronaut.

Calli Delsman is a university communications student assistant as Minot State University.