Trip on Border Issues Forces Scholarship Recipient Charly Mendoza to Wrestle With Inner Past Demons

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015
CO ASB PIIE 2015

Charly Mendoza

By Kelsey Butler*

For University of Colorado (CU) Boulder student Charly Mendoza, a Casey Feldman Foundation scholarship has helped him experience a “one of a kind” spring break trip.

Charly received a 2015 Alternative Spring Break (ASB) scholarship to study immigration issues in Arizona, which, according to the website, would help students “explore and understand the issues and challenges on both sides of the border.”

The trip is designed to be an “immersion experience to gain both understanding and awareness of immigrant and border issues and an opportunity to work towards justice.” During the program, students directly spoke with people along the border in Tuscon, Ariz., and Nogales, Mexico, impacted by the hot-button topic of immigration. The group also worked with organizations that construct water drops and help treat and prepare prospective border crossers and returnees.

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The border between Arizona and Mexico

Of the experience, Charly said, “Besides my personal interest in the issue, I had a blast being able to connect with such a diverse group of students who all shared a common ideal that every human no matter the skin they were has the right to live life without being harassed and killed in hatred.”

Charly said the scholarship from the foundation helped him “immensely” in overcoming the price tag of the trip, so he could learn about the actual reality of living on the border—later adding, “I’m so very grateful.”

He hopes to use the lessons learned on his alternative spring break in the immediate future as a leader of the same spring break trip he took last year, and eventually, once he graduates from CU, to accomplish a list of many ambitious goals. For Charly, who is double majoring in molecular, cellular, developmental biology and creative writing, these dreams include working in the pharmaceutical industry to combat genetic defects and harmful mutations, launching a writing career, and teaching high school or university students—perhaps back at CU.

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Water drop for immigrants

The journey has helped Charly, now a sophomore at CU, to build a support system with the other students he was able to travel with.

“The trip was one of kind to be honest,” he said. “Eleven strangers left at [4 a.m.] at the start of that spring break week and by the 7th day those same 11 came back changed for the better becoming more like family than friends. Personally, immigration hits very close to home to me so this trip was a bit more of me trying to wrestle with my inner past demons I had about [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] taking my dad away unjustly. Luckily I had 10 other shoulders to cry on and am now proud of calling them familia.”

All of our Alternate Spring Break scholarships are based upon financial need. Please donate to the Casey Feldman Foundation so that other deserving students may experience an Alternative Spring Break.

Charly and his fellow CU classmates in AZ (Charlie -rear row, 2nd from L)

Charly and his fellow CU classmates in AZ (Charlie -rear row, 2nd from L)

Related Links:

“Alternative Spring Break Scholarships Fostering a Generation Who Wants to Give Back“,   Nov. 2014  (Casey Feldman Foundation) 

About the Alternative Spring Break Program (CU Volunteer Resource Center)

Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Blog News (scroll down through for all articles)

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Kelsey (L) & Casey

*Kelsey Butler was one of Casey’s best friends and roommate at Fordham University. She works as a financial journalist in New York.

With an Open Mind and Open Heart, Scholarship Recipient Strives to Use her Passion and Energy to Help Others

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

By Gail Roth*

Madeline Gross“Stoked and blessed” is how Madeline Gross, a Junior Anthropology major at the University of Colorado at Boulder described her reaction to being selected as the recipient of a Casey Feldman Memorial Scholarship to participate in the University’s Alternative Spring Break Program. “I signed up …specifically to learn more about what it means to be an ally to the LGBTQ community. I saw the deeply ingrained and confusing attitudes from parents, friends, community leaders, teachers and doctors … I wanted to understand what it means to be of a marginalized community.” Although she has faced challenges in her own life, overall she feels privileged to be able to use her time as a college student for the good of others.

Raised by her grandparents in a close knit church-going family, Madeline saw little support in her community for teens struggling with gender and sexual identity, especially the impact on friends who were not able to be seen “as fully human” by those closest to them because they were different. As a high school junior seeking inspiration in the big world outside her Fort Morgan, Colorado home, 16-year old Madeline spent a year in Minas Gerais, Brazil, learning and volunteering through the foundation APAE. While in South America, she spent half her school day in class and the rest working with mentally and physically disabled children and adults, in another language (Portuguese), far from home.

At CU Boulder, Madeline remains committed to improving the lives of others from marginalized communities. In the spirit of Casey Feldman’s advocacy and support of the rights of the LGTQ community, Madeline, along with other dedicated and curious CU students, participated in ThroughOUT San Fran: LGBTQ Advocacy. The program’s participants experienced the diversity of the LBGTQ community with members from every walk of life. They learned about the needs of its members for food, shelter, medical necessities as well as protection from HIV/AIDS, police brutality and discrimination. Among the projects she worked on during her stay, Madeline and other volunteers walked more than 14 miles across San Francisco with the AIDS Housing Alliance to find housing for people with immediate needs for shelter and to meet with various hotels to see if they wanted to partner with the organization.

Just as she feels grateful for her many opportunities for civic engagement and her ability to make a difference, Madeline says of her Alternative Spring Break experience, “I understand many of the benefits I have being a college student, being a heterosexual, white woman because I don’t worry about unfair treatment or harassment on a daily basis.” By working with, not for, people from the LGBTQ community, Madeline not only understands the issues on a deeper level but made friends with other trip members in the process.

Contribute to the Casey Feldman Foundation so that more students may experience the rewards of an Alternative Spring Break.

Madeline Gross (rear, brown hat) and her fellow CU students in San Francisco

Madeline Gross (rear, brown hat) and her fellow CU students in San Francisco

Related Links:

“Alternative Spring Break Scholarships Fostering a Generation Who Wants to Give Back“,   Nov. 2014  (Casey Feldman Foundation) 

About the Alternative Spring Break Program (CU Volunteer Resource Center)

Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Blog News (scroll down through for all articles)

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gail roth*Gail Roth is an attorney with Bookspan Family Law in Radnor, PA.  Having also experienced the traumatic loss of a loved one, Gail  focuses her practice on helping clients move through difficult transitions and building happier futures. She is a former colleague of Casey’s father, Joel Feldman.