This month THE MJ PROJECT is excited to introduce you to Rodolfo, a student at The University of Alaska Fairbanks. He is truly a student to spotlight as he tackles a challenging academic course load with a positive, BE KIND attitude that we love so much around here.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you’re studying…
My name is Rodolfo. I’m 21 years old and from Inglewood, California. I study Biology and Chemistry as my main majors at the University of Alaska Fairbanks; they are what my degree plan revolves around. Though, while I was expressing joy for all the possible AP exams offered during my junior year of high school, someone said to me, "You are going to have so much fun with the college catalog." That person must have been a fortune-teller, because I know the UAF catalog like a best friend and so far I am more than halfway done with minors in psychology, physics, and mathematics (though there are many more minors I am planning to start in the future and eventually finish, like the Political Science minor I’ll start this summer!)
How do you get all that done?
It is difficult for me to think about all the work that would go into such a diverse degree. I carry full-time work and full-time school as burdens during the summer to mitigate costs. Tuition at UAF is set to resident tuition for all students every summer, so I stay here every summer and take advantage of the cheap prices for classes. In addition to my classes, I also usually work full-time in the summer as a housekeeper on campus. UAF is also a surprisingly cheap school and is cheaper than many of my in-state options from California.
I have so much love for all of the sciences, and I want to help people access these joys and wonders. I want to especially bring these trinkets of my fascination back to underprivileged communities where many people think that education is a dead-end and that the sciences are for people unlike themselves. As for Biology and Chemistry specifically, I am looking for a cure to aging. I enjoy life and want to continue living it as long as I can!
How did you become connected to THE MJ PROJECT?
The donor support from THE MJ PROJECT was so helpful at the beginning of the current semester when I was terrified of thinking about where my textbooks were going to come from. I didn't know how I would cope with academic pressure. Not being able to follow along in class without reading the textbook beforehand would be difficult. Money was short and with my schedule I had no time to look for money.
THE MJ PROJECT came to my rescue when a high school teacher noticed a post I'd made on Facebook about looking for the textbooks I'd needed this semester. She pointed me in the direction of THE MJ PROJECT, and they helped me buy a copy of a required textbook for my Botany class.
The textbook has since nearly doubled in price, so I was saved a large amount of agony through their generosity. Had I waited to see if I could acquire the money for the textbook over the semester, I would have been shocked to see the newer price, and I would have probably just given up. I make a point of sharing the textbook with my group of friends in the class to spread THE MJ PROJECT love and maximize the happiness achieved from the selflessness of those involved. We even have an online document where we keep our communal notes.
What would you like people to know about THE MJ PROJECT?
Education is a powerful equalizer in our world, and access to it is vital for people seeking socioeconomic mobility. Though education can equalize, the access to education is not equal. Many do not have the tools to lift themselves up using their education, as they are now. THE MJ PROJECT helps to change that and make education more accessible and more powerful in its ability to lift people up. The disparity of wealth is a socioeconomic problem, and it is especially felt by people who have no access to wealth or access to only dilapidated institutions of education to begin with. Donations of any amount mean so much more than words can describe to people in college who worry often about their college payments and textbook costs.
Any cool science facts you'd like to share with us?
Here are some interesting botany facts about a specific plant: there exists a species of tree called gingko. This tree was cultivated by Chinese monks for about 1,000 years. The relatives of this plant were not so lucky, as they all went extinct. This plant is thought to exist today only as a result of being cultivated by Chinese monks. This plant is also the only known plant species to show dichotomous venation in its leaves. The veins of the leaves branch off into two and continue to do this many times until they reach the end of the leaf. Lastly, beware of the female variety of gingko. They are said to smell of “vomit and rancid butter”. This is a result of their fruit rotting.
This month THE MJ PROJECT is thrilled to share our March Student Spotlight with you. As a high school student she participated in our Digital Media program and now, as a college student she is pursuing a degree in Film, Television & Digital Media at UCLA. Sure to make a positive difference in the world, Almarosa is working hard to achieve her dreams.
Tell us a little bit about yourself...
My name is Almarosa. I am a junior studying Film, Television, & Digital Media with a concentration in Cinematography at UCLA’s Film School. My passion for film began when my father, who works for a few movie directors, brought home an old Canon AE-1 35mm camera. Since then, I have spent time studying film ceaselessly on the internet and taking pictures on my adventures. When I first laid my hands on a digital camera, I found a new obsession. I could not stop myself from taking videos and editing them. My interest in cameras led to my passion in cinematography, and now I aspire to become the director of photography for significant films, television shows, and music videos.
Give us a little insight into your background...
I was born and raised in Inglewood, California. Both my parents are from Mexico and immigrated to this country in search of the American Dream. My older sister, Maria, always reminded me of the sacrifices my parents made for us to pursue a higher education. This kept me motivated in my school work and shaped me as a person. The lack of resources in my hometown revealed the importance of reaching out to nonprofit organizations that aid students like me. As a result, I joined academic programs that provided the extra push and helped me succeed. My accomplishments could not have been possible without the support of my peers, and now I hope to do the same for others.
We hear you've got a busy schedule!
What else have you been up to?
I am currently volunteering for the All Ways Up Foundation (AWU) and MMLA. They both are recreating documentary series that tell their purpose, story, and goals. For AWU, I was featured in their most recent short documentary along with 5 other scholars. I shared my background and obstacles I overcame to succeed. On the other hand, MMLA made me their co-producer for their informational videos about the organization and a minute long commercial. For the past couple of months, I have attended several meetings and shoots for the videos that are currently being edited. This is a commitment of mine that I have had the pleasure being a part of because this program is one of the reasons why I am studying film today. I hope to create more opportunities for students to get involved with film making.
Tell us about your involvement with THE MJ PROJECT...
I attended Animo Inglewood Charter High School and am fortunate to have stayed connected with my teachers, who are a part of THE MJ PROJECT. On UCLA’s campus, I ran into my former drama high school teacher. He informed me on the mission of THE MJ PROJECT and the scholarships offered to support students in need. I took this opportunity to apply for a scholarship that could help me fund a camera purchase. Soon enough, I was the recipient of the scholarship and was able to buy the camera I wanted. I am thankful for the project’s support because it enabled me to expand on my creativity by owning the essential equipment a film student needs. This will allow me to solely focus on crafting my senior thesis for the upcoming school year. The MJ PROJECT is a great resource for low-income students who face hardships with affording technology or books for school use.
What do you love most about THE MJ PROJECT?
THE MJ PROJECT is run by the most amazing people I have ever met. I cannot put to words how humble and helpful the board is. Creative career fields are poorly supported in under-served communities, but THE MJ PROJECT is changing this by funding student films.
THE MJ PROJECT is excited to shine the student spotlight on Monse this month. We caught up with her recently, and she shared with us her story about how growing up in a small and troubled town resulted in her love of reading.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
My name is Monserrat, but I go by Monse. I’m currently in my first semester at Fresno State for my BA in Graphic Design, and recently graduated from Reedley College with my Associates in Studio Arts with a certificate in Graphic Design. Art has always been my passion. No matter how hard times get, a blank paper and pencil always lead the way out. I can’t remember a moment where art and creativity haven’t ruled my life...which is how I found myself working as an English Tutor for the past two years at Reedley College. While I fell in love with reading, I found myself being pulled towards writing my own worlds. Next thing I knew, literature became a subject with which I was helping others fall in love. Although most wouldn't consider art and writing to be the same thing, to me, they both represent the possibility for creativity.
How did you come to love reading so much?
I was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and when I was seven years old, my family made the hard decision of moving to America in search of the American Dream and better education for us. Our journey brought us to a small town named New London where I lived for 14 years. In such a small town with two mini stores and one main street, there was not a lot that a teenager could do for fun. I wasn't allowed to go out because of the fear of gangs and drugs, so I turned to books for my escape.
Books became my personal portal to any universe. I was not stuck in a bad town but traveling the world, swimming with sirens and flying with dragons across the universe. Sadly, although I found the joy of reading, not everyone else my age did. I saw the impacts a bad town can have on young people. If it hadn’t been for my parents who were willing to buy me books when they could and take me to a public library in another city, I never would have found books that I love. Books that made someone that hated reading fall in love with them. It's not just about reading any book, is about finding the right ones. Books that make you want to read all night. I found that in fiction.
How did you connect with THE MJ PROJECT?
I knew that if there was another person like me who was looking for an escape from a bad place, there needed to be a library. Although New London had a bad reputation, I met a lot of people with big hearts and a strong determination to completely change the community. They were individuals whom I met when I was attending Kings River Elementary School; teachers who wanted a better community for their students.
They were changing New London for the better, so I became a part of their Library for London project. My love for reading forced shy 15-year-old me to get involved with the library project. During the time that I was involved with trying to get a small library open, I met a lot of amazing people that joined us in the cause. Among those amazing people that care about books as much as I do were the founders of THE MJ PROJECT.
What impact has THE MJ PROJECT had on you?
They were like angels bearing books upon me. They not only gave me all the books I had wanted to buy for years, but they’ve continued to supply me with books for the past 3 years! Every break from school that I have, I can expect to have a relaxing time with the books they so generously send my way. For a book-a-holic like me, that’s the greatest gift of all.
I think THE MJ PROJECT is so important for the same reason why I became involved with building a library in my community: somewhere out there, there is someone like me who wants to go flying with dragons, swimming with sirens, and traveling across the universe, and the only thing they need to go on all of those adventures is to open a book.
The MJ PROJECT Blog is written by students, teachers, and MJ Project team members seeking to keep our supportive community in the know with regards to our most recent projects, grants, and programs.