Fierce

Strangers Raise Over $175k For a Latina Student Who Used Her College Savings Towards Her Mom’s Rent

Photo via GoFundMe

So many of us have parents who have had to overcome impossible obstacles to give us the chance at a better life. The older we get, the more we recognize the amount of sacrifice it took our parents to give us a better future than they have. But sometimes, things don’t go according to plan–like for Alondra Carmona.

18-year-old Alondra Carmona gave her mother her entire college savings when she discovered that they were two months behind on rent.

And Alondra hadn’t been planning to go to just any school, but Barnard–an all-girls Ivy League school in New York City. Barnard had been Alondra’s dream since she was 15-years-old. She worked hard throughout her four years at high school and, luckily, all that hard work paid off. In December, she found out she was accepted, and she felt like all of her dreams had come true.

Barnard had offered to cover $60,000 of her tuition each year, and Alondra had planned on covering the rest of the costs with her own money–which amounted to about $2,000 that Alondra had saved from her high school jobs and internships.

But earlier this month, Alondra was hit with a blow: her mother had secretly been unemployed for the last 3 months and now they were facing eviction.

Photo via Alondra Carmona/Facebook

According to Alondra, she had no clue her mother was having financial problems. Her mother had hid it from her family because she didn’t want to worry them.

“When she told me that, I wanted to cry,” Alondra told local news station KHOU.”I knew I had to accept I couldn’t go to Barnard.”

Without hesitating, Alondra offered up her own personal college savings to help her mom cover their rent. “I knew I wanted to help her,” Alondra said. “I really didn’t think twice about it. I told her I’m going to give you my savings and make a GoFundMe page to see if I can get enough to replace the money in my savings.”

And so she did. Alondra posted a heartfelt GoFundMe page that kindly asked strangers to help chip in to cover her college tuition costs.

Photo via Alondra Carmona/Facebook

Alondra laid out her hopes and dreams on the GoFundMe page, explaining that she hoped to study the STEM field at Barnard and, ultimately, pursue an M.D./PhD in medicine.

“I have worked tirelessly to look for programs and opportunities that my small school could not provide,” she wrote. “All of my college savings will go to paying the rent that we are behind on. As much as I dream of going to Barnard College, it is not looking promising right now. I am turning to this as a last resort because Barnard will not be able to change my financial aid package.”

Within days, Alondra had raised $171,000–far more than her original $10,000 goal.

Alondra, for her part, is blown away by the kindness and generosity that complete strangers have shown her. “I am incredibly thankful and crying right now,” she wrote, shortly after her GoFundMe page took off. “I can’t even describe how grateful I am. I have no words. Everyone is so supportive and loving, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

But above all, Alondra Carmona is grateful to her mother–the person in her life who gave her everything. “I love my mom so much,” Alondra told KHOU. “She really has done so much for us just coming from El Salvador to give us a better chance at a good education. I’m so grateful to her.”

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This Latino In His Sixties Spent Half Of His Life Behind Bars, Now He’s Graduating College With Honors

Things That Matter

This Latino In His Sixties Spent Half Of His Life Behind Bars, Now He’s Graduating College With Honors

Photo via Facebook/Miguel de la Rosa

Once in a while, a story comes along that makes you realize that the phrase “you can do anything you put your mind to”, isn’t just an old cliche. One California Latino man proved that the phrase has some truth behind it.

62-year-old Joseph Valadez just graduated with honors from Cal State Long Beach after spending the half of his adult life behind bars.

Valadez’s story went viral when one of his fellow students tweeted about the California Latino man’s incredible story. “This man accomplished something incredible AND took the coldest pic of 2021,” said that caption.

The post is a screenshot of a Facebook post Valadez wrote, accompanied by some stunning graduation photos of the 62-year-old.

“I finished my last two semester at Long Beach on the ‘President’s Honor List’ for making straight As,” wrote Valadez on the CSULB alumni Facebook group. “Was also on the Dean’s List with a GPA of 3.67. Not bad for someone who spent half his adult life in prison.”

“There’s a misconception about guys like me that I want to break,” he added. “If I can do it, anyone can.”

Since the picture went viral, Valadez opened up about the journey that took him from rock bottom to where he is now.

Like many people in the prison system, addiction fueled Valadez’s life of crime. In an interview with Long Beach Post, he revealed that he began using heroine when he first joined the army at the age of 18.

“All the crimes I did were related to trying to get drugs, selling drugs,” the California Latino man told the Long Beach Post. He would spend 38 years of his life battling addiction.

After that, his life spiraled into a cycle of addiction, homelessness, violence, and crime. In total, Valadez has been to prison 40 times. He has spent more than 30 years behind bars.

Valadez finally decided to change his life in his 50s, when he realized that if he kept living this way, he would die soon.

In 2013, Valadez checked into an adult rehab facility. He stayed there for a year while he got clean. Soon after, he enrolled in Orange Coast Community College before ultimately transferring to Cal State Long Beach. In total, it took six years of challenging coursework for him to graduate. But from the look of pride in Valadez’s face, it was worth it.

Throughout his journey in the educational system, however, Valadez has discovered all the ways that the system failed him. Despite getting good grades in high school, teachers didn’t suggest college as an option for him. Instead, they suggested he pursue landscaping or construction. Similarly, when Valadez bounced in and out of jail due to his addiction, no one ever suggested rehab as a way for him to break the cycle.

Now, Valadez wants to take the lessons he learned and give back to his community.

At CSULB, Valadez excelled in sociology, and was interested in exploring how the criminal justice system is set up to target people of color. “I know a little bit about that subject because I lived it,” he said. “I wanted to understand the ‘why?’.” As of now, he is waiting to see if he gets accepted into CSULB’s Social Work masters program.

Valadez wants to use his new degree to help young kids who are at-risk of being failed by the system, like he was. “I’m going to inspire somebody, I’m going to motivate somebody, I’m going to give somebody hope,” he said. “That’s what I’m supposed to do.”

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The First Ever Tribally-Associated Medical School Opened On Cherokee Lands

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The First Ever Tribally-Associated Medical School Opened On Cherokee Lands

Credit: Getty Images

In this unprecedented year that has pushed the boundaries of the healthcare industry past its breaking point, a new kind of medical school is making history. A medical school that caters to Indigenous American medical students.

The school is called Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation (COMCN), and it will be the first tribally-associated medical school in the U.S.

Largely the brainchild of former principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Bill John Baker, the project aims to combine the practices of traditional healing practice of the Cherokee people with Western medical teachings.

Bill John Baker’s original goal was to invest money into the Cherokee Nation medical system. His fundraising efforts drew the attention of Oklahoma State University, who approached the then-principal Chief with the idea of opening up a medical school on reservation lands. To him, the decision was a no-brainer.

“After we were removed from tribal lands and there were no teachers, we invested our treasury into teachers. This is a natural progression. Just as our ancestors grew their own teachers 150 years ago, we want to grow our own doctors,” Bill John Baker told Medscape.

As recent reports have detailed, Indigenous communities are being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the CDC, Indigenous Americans are testing positive for COVID-19 at 3.5 times the rate of white Americans. This is largely due to lingering historical inequities and structural failings that negatively impact the overall health of Indigenous Americans.

One of the solutions to this institutional failing is to recruit and train more doctors of color–in this case, more Indigenous American doctors. As of now, 0.4% of doctors in the U.S. identify themselves as being American Indian or Alaska Native.

Since COMCN is a state school, non-Indigenous students are welcome to study at the school as well. According to the university’s states, 22% of its students identify as Native American, while they make up less than 1% of the U.S. population.

The devastation that COVID-19 has wrought globally has spurred an uptick in medical school applications.

In what has been dubbed the “Fauci Effect”, the number of potential students applying to medical school is up 18% this year from last year. It seems that this global health crisis has sparked a desire in certain people dedicate their lives to medicine.

So COMCN couldn’t come at a better time. America needs more Indigenous doctors and COMCN is here to teach them.

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