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Kendall Impact: Student Spotlight

David Barrios

David Barrios

              “MDC Kicks Out Cancer”                                         

           Almost a year ago, my family was told some unexpected and devastating news; my twenty-four-year old sister, Rebecca, was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  It has been hard to watch my sister fight for her life this year, but through her battle I witnessed her optimism in the midst of a dark time.  Her journey has inspired me to always look for the “light at the end of the tunnel”.   Through her struggle, my sister taught me to consider the brighter side of every situation, and I was convicted to help others realize the same.  Experiencing up-close and personally how cancer can take such a toll on a person, their family, and finances, I was determined to help raise awareness and financial resources for others who are currently enduring the similar challenges that come with this ugly disease.  Empathy for others experiencing the pain and anxiety that cancer brings to families and the crippling medical bills related to those in treatment developed an idea within that moved me to action.  Rebecca inspired me, and that inspiration drove me to become more than just a spectator, but rather a motivator to those in my community.

              Although my 2019 summer was academically rigorous with an engineering internship and Chemistry classes, I began formulating ideas and practical ways to increase awareness among my peers and to also facilitate financial support for current cancer patients.  Motivated by my sister, and with the help of my honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, I submitted a service project proposal in the fall of 2019, called “MDC Kicks Out Cancer”.  This became our chapter’s official initiative for the academic school year.  The premise and aim were geared towards raising awareness for current cancer patients who are uninsured and under-resourced in the Miami Dade Kendal community.  The inspiration came from my own experience, witnessing my sister’s taxing chemotherapy treatments and the subsequent doctor and treatment bills she received.

With help from the American Cancer society’s Senior Manager of Community Development, whom I contacted personally, we formulate the mission statement: “The last worry any cancer patient should have is whether they can afford treatment.”  Our goal was to first raise awareness through informational sessions with speakers from the American Cancer Society, oncologists from local hospitals, and cancer survivors.  These informational sessions were called “Mission Literacies,” which attracted over 350 students and faculty during the fall of 2019.   During these events personal stories were shared, and professionals in the field, along with oncologists, described the devastating truth that the under-resourced who battle cancer must face.  After each one of our Mission Literacies, I would often reflect on how grateful I was that my sister’s financial pressures were not as daunting since she had access to insurance coverage.  All of these informational sessions culminated in our final event: a five vs. five soccer tournament held on the Miami Dade soccer field.  I lead the Executive PTK Board in organizing and promoting this fund-raiser event, where we officiated 5 fields, provided food, beverages, music, and event day t-shirts for players and spectators.  We had 11 teams register from several Miami Dade College campuses as well as community teams that had heard of the event and wanted to participate.  Over 200 people came out to support our cause, cheering on their favorite team and contributing financially as well.   I am thrilled to say we raised over 4,000 dollars for those currently battling cancer!

              My college experience has helped me realize my own potential and ability to influence others to make a positive difference.  I never expected that my sister would be diagnosed with cancer at such a young age, but through all this, good still resulted.  Her extremely positive outlook on life has influenced me, my character, and choice of life priorities.  Having the opportunity to make even a small positive contribution for the benefit of others is empowering and humbling as well.  It has molded the man I am today.  A quote from one of my favorite speakers, Eric Thomas, has given me new perspective: “Where there is no struggle, there is absolutely no progress.”  I understand experientially now that struggle develops endurance and perseverance, which leads to positivity.  Ultimately, positivity becomes the avenue to gratefulness, a quality that guarantees a brighter future.  I am grateful too:  since the inception of my idea for this project, my sister completed her chemotherapy and is now in remission!

Chavely Gonzalez

Chavely Gonzalez

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1. Homeless Outreach Volunteer in Downtown Miami:
Community service has always played an important role in my life. Alongside my Church, feeding the homeless, teaching children, and organizing activities for the needy have been my major priorities since 2014. Through my experiences, I have made some connections with non-governmental associations that work for this same cause. Learning how they organize their time and resources, allowed me to achieve some great things for my community. My area of focus is Downtown Miami because even though, it is famous for its skyscrapers and modernism, ironically, it is also a place full of homelessness and need. Roaming the streets of downtown Miami has made me realize their lack of stability and need for help. Women and men of different ages lay on the sidewalks every night while many selfishly squander their goods. The polluted air that comes from surrounding cars make it almost impossible for the homeless to stay there. Adding fuel to the fire, the authorities have closed lots that previously served them as shelter during the night. Therefore, their situation is now tougher than ever. Offering them a hot plate of food, a drink, and some personal hygiene supplies is the least that I can do for this community in shortage. These circumstances inspire me to continue fighting this lack of mercy. Another reason that I have been driven to volunteer is the need for students that care about their community. It is a noble cause that changes my perspective on life and enables me to be a better resident of the United States. 
 
2. Peer-Led Team Learning Chemistry Tutor at MDC Tutoring Center:
Being a Peer Academic Leader has made me a deliberate student. Through collaborative learning, I have helped my peers to better understand some new concepts that they encounter in their Chemistry class. I have impacted not only their grades given that the supportive environment facilitates them to get higher grades, but also their lives. I usually met them for two hours every week and that time was greatly appreciating when tests season came around. In the midst of frustration and stress, I was blessed to be there for them and show them some techniques that ease them. This active learning program equipped me with tutoring experience and transformed me into a serviceable student who want her MDC peers to succeed academically. 
 
3. YES! For Environmental and Sustainability Club Secretary:
I became an officer of the YES! For Environmental and Sustainability Club in the Fall of 2019. My involvement in environmental activities increased after attending to an eye-opening trip to Narrow Ridge, Tennessee. This experience changed my way of behaving. It gave me a different perspective of Earth and encourage me to live sustainable. As a result, I have engaged in several projects that can improve our campus from an ecological point of view. For instance, I am planning to display an interacting art piece made from recycled bottle caps to celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd. I have been collecting bottle caps for three semesters now. This is collaborative effort of many students that donate bottle cups and donate them to the Club.
 
4. Cru Club President:
One of my biggest fear when I started college in 2018 was to be so busy that I might forget about those core values and activities that form part of my personality. I was afraid of being too involved in classes as to forget my responsibilities as a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a Christian. After some research and knocking doors, I met Cru. This is a caring community that find solutions for the students. Their main goal if to encourage the individual to grow in their faith whatever their position is right now. They promote conservative core values that benefit our lives in society. Cru also offers community service trips all around the world where people can not only serve a community in need, but also cultivate their spirituality. Last year we were in the process of getting all the documents signed, but this semester is our first active semester. I cannot wait to see what God is holding for us, but we are very excited to open this club which will make the difference in MDC Kendall. We will be the real example that college does not mean abandoning your identity but reinforcing it.
 
5. Opioids Outreach Project at MDC Eduardo J. Padron:
Opioids are terrible enemies of United States. Many people in our community are suffering from this addition and we do not even notice them. It may be our neighbor, or our family but America is clearly going through an Opioid Crises. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 16% of U.S. counties, enough opioid prescriptions were dispensed for every person to have one. That is why, I took the initiative to be part of my Chemistry class effort to decrease the numbers of the scary statistics. A group of undergraduates went out to the streets of Little Havana, Miami to bring awareness of the opioid’s crisis. This project made us leave our comfort zone to tell the neighbors of the Eduardo J. Padron Campus about the increasing number of people suffering of opioids addition. The experience was unforgettable and personally rewarding. People opened their doors with a welcoming spirit and patiently heard everything we told them. They kindly received the flayers with the telephone numbers to which they could call if they knew someone who had developed a dependence of any of those drugs. Also, if they were witnessing an overdose, the flyer contained the contact information of the Miami-Dade department that would help them. 
 
6. MDC PRISM Undergraduate Research 
The Stem top Program of my community college offered me the possibility of participating in a compelling research about the level of mercury in edible fish. I partnered with the Mathematical Department during the past summer and since they felt so satisfied with my work, they invited me to continue our investigation in the upcoming Spring semester. Working in groups and journaling every procedure strengthened my connective skill. It brought me professional growth because sharing my investigation results and listening to feedback trained me to collaborate and execute collectively.  The study aimed to explore the effect of pH, alkalinity and calcium on the mercury levels in a sample of fish from 38 Florida lakes. Alkalinity in water was the factor with largest effect on predicting standardized levels of mercury in fish. It appears that the level of alkalinity in water is being affected partly by an occurrence known as acid rain can become poisoned by it. Being aware of these correlations motivated me to take more action for the sustainable wellbeing of my campus. Therefore, I am part of a group of students that want to reopen the Kendall Environmental Center which is an oasis of Florida wildlife. It is temporarily close now because of the damage that the last hurricane caused. Our efforts, dreams, and student force are uniting to achieve this vision.