Personally Speaking: Nick Daza ’20

Nick Daza is a political science major with minors in business administration and religion studies from South Brunswick, New Jersey

By: Meghan Kita  Tuesday, March 31, 2020 11:20 AM

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Photos by Maggie Ewald

Personally Speaking is a feature of Muhlenberg Magazine where our writers interview students and alumni about their own personal stories. This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of Muhlenberg Magazine.

He has dual citizenship in the United States and Colombia.
“I moved from Colombia to Miami when I was 3 and I lived there for a year and a half. Miami has a lot of Spanish-speaking people, so I didn’t learn English right away. When I moved to New Jersey, I would come into the classroom and feel like an outsider. But I picked up on little things, emotions and different things the teacher would do, and I would interpret those. That’s how I learned the language.”

He was a research assistant for Interim Dean of Academic Life Michele Deegan...
“After I took Research Methods, Professor Deegan approached me about researching Allentown. We were looking at how statistics from the census tract give us an idea of quality of life. We looked at housing, access to healthcare and transportation, socioeconomic status. The houses, most of them are extremely old. There are houses that have no plumbing in Allentown. Things that we take for granted on a daily basis may not be available right down the street. After I saw the statistics, I was like, I want to do something about this.”

...and that experience led him to an internship last summer at Casa Guadalupe,
a community center in downtown Allentown.
“When I was reading the description of the internship, I saw most of the kids and their families spoke Spanish, so that was relatable. I worked as a teacher’s aide, but I was also in charge of physical education for the kids. I would come up with games. We would do relay races. We took a bunch of yoga mats and put them all together to make a huge wrestling mat and I taught them some wrestling, too. I still go every Monday.”

He’s been wrestling since fifth grade...
“A friend on the wrestling team said, ‘We have a bring-a-friend day. You could come.’ I never liked sports where you run up and down chasing a ball. When I found wrestling, I was like, This is the sport for me. My mom always wanted me to live a healthy lifestyle, but she wasn’t one of those parents who burns their kid out, and I’m thankful for that. It let me develop a genuine passion for the sport.”

...and he’s trying to make the Colombian national team.
“Last fall, I represented Colombia at a tournament in Puerto Rico and I placed third. Our assistant coach, Guesseppe Rea, was going—he wrestles for Ecuador. He’s a mentor for me, and he thought it would be a good opportunity to get my feet wet. It was my first time competing internationally and my second time wrestling freestyle, which is very different from how we wrestle in the United States—the rules and the scoring are different. I really enjoyed it. Next summer, Colombia has the national tournament, and if you win that, you make the U23 world team.”

His experiences at Muhlenberg and in Allentown have shaped what he wants to do with his life.
“When I first came into college, I thought, I’m going to law school. But I’ve really enjoyed being at Casa Guadalupe. It doesn’t feel like work to me because I just like spending time with the kids there. So, I’ve been looking at this summer program called IRT (the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers). They’ll help you pay for your master’s and they train you to be a teacher in under-resourced communities. I really want to coach wrestling one day, so even if I don’t go for my master’s in political science, maybe it’s something related to education. If I were to be a teacher and a coach at the same time, I think that’s the job that I would truly enjoy.”