Manuel Camacho: My Faith Comes First

by Nathan Foster

When Manuel Camacho walks across the stage at Azusa Pacific University’s commencement ceremony in May 2023, he will have accomplished a lifelong goal: to become the first person in his family to graduate from college. Camacho’s hard work led to this moment, but it wouldn’t have been possible alone.“I have a lot of my family rooting for me, helping me stay focused on graduating,” he said. “I want to make them proud.”

It all began with a simple campus tour. Camacho received a letter in the mail from APU, and although he didn’t know much about the school, he and his mother decided to make the 45-minute drive from Colton to check it out. “We both fell in love with APU and all it had to offer. By the end of the tour, we were already talking with admissions and signing up for registration,” he said. “I knew this was the right place for me.”

As a first generation college student, Camacho faced many challenges. Not knowing where to turn, Camacho found APU’s community provided the help he needed to thrive. “The community aspect was so impactful for me,” he said. “APU was where I learned it’s okay to be friendly and talk to random people, to introduce yourself to strangers and just have conversations. That was very new for me. It made it easy to make friends, which I’m grateful for.”

Camacho also enjoys the Christian aspect of APU’s community, the way it feels to be at an institution that puts God First. “My faith comes first,” he said. “Ever since my Mom and I were reintroduced to church when I was 14, my faith has continued to grow. It influences every decision I make in my business, school, and life. It’s great to be surrounded by a community of people who share my values at APU.”

With an entrepreneurial background, Camacho decided to major in business. “I’ve learned a lot in my classes that will help me later in life,” he said. “For now, the most important thing I’ve learned is the significance of networking, which helps me in my current business.” He runs his own company called Camacho Customs, where he creates one-of-a-kind designs on shoes. “It started at the beginning of COVID. I was looking for something to make and I began researching customized shoes. I taught myself how to create them,” he said. “At first I was just doing commissions for friends and family, then other people began hearing about my shoes through word of mouth.” Camacho has created dozens of designs on leather and canvas sneakers— everything from Vans and Converses to Nike Air Force 1s and even a pair of $400 Air Jordans. His past designs include sports teams’ colors, band logos/album covers, animated characters, flowers, cups of coffee, and everything in between. Camacho showcases his designs on Instagram and TikTok. “I bring my customers’ ideas to life.”

As Camacho’s business continues to grow, he has not lost sight of the big picture. “One day I’d like to partner with a shoe company to expand my business,” he said. “For now though, my number one goal is graduating. I’m excited to make my family proud when I walk across that stage.”

Nathan is the public relations manager in the Division of Strategic Communication and Engagement.