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

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.

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