Thirteen WTAMU Freshmen Selected for African Trip

Nov 04, 2008
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CONTACT:    Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, 806-651-2931, 

COPY BY:    Rana McDonald, 806-651-2129, 

CANYON, Texas—Thirteen freshmen at West Texas A&M University expressed shock and disbelief when their names were announced on Friday, Oct. 31 as winners of an all-expense-paid trip to Africa.

The 13 students are the winners of an essay contest about this year’s Readership WT book selection What is the What. The win will take the students to Lundazi, Zambia, in March 2009 on a series of service projects with the Rising Fountains Foundation.

"I’m flabbergasted," Patrick Miller, a freshman pre-law major from Amarillo, said. "I can’t believe it—this is beyond my wildest dreams. It will be a trip of a lifetime, and I’m honored to be selected."

The trip to Africa marks the second international sojourn for winners of a Readership WT essay contest. Last year’s winners traveled to Poland to follow in the footsteps of Elie Wiesel, the internationally known Holocaust survivor and author of the 2007 book selection, "Night."

"Last year’s trip took 20 essay winners to Poland, and it was a trip that changed their lives," Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, associate provost for academic affairs and director of Readership WT, said. "We wanted to take a trip this year that would reflect this year’s book selection and show first-hand the hardships Valentino Deng faced, and ones the people of eastern Africa continue to face every day."

Valentino Deng, one of the 20,000 "Lost Boys" of Sudan, is the subject of "What Is the What." The book, written by Dave Eggers, is a novel about Deng’s experiences as he escaped his home in Marial Bai, hid from government soldiers, walked thousands of miles and lived in refugee camps—all in search of a safe home. He spoke to the freshman class at the University’s annual Convocation in September, and took part in a ticketed reception that served as a fund-raiser for the Africa trip.

"I’m extremely excited and completely shocked," Nicholas Hernandez, a freshman biology major from Hereford, said. "I’m also filled with gratitude. This is a huge thing for me."

The 13 students were each given a copy of the book, On the Move, by Bono and a leather bracelet. The bracelets were made in Africa, and Lowery-Hart encouraged each student to wear it every day "as a remembrance of what you are being prepared for."

Through the Rising Fountains Foundation, the students will work with AIDS awareness issues and participate in after-school programs. They also will deal with the area’s water safety issues and help build water wells and latrines.

"Service projects will be at the heart of what we’re trying to do on this trip," Lowery-Hart said. "The students will begin preparing for the trip in early spring. We will become a family by the start of the trip and come back as spokesmen for the University to share our experiences with the community."

Lowery-Hart, a few members of the WTAMU faculty and student peer leaders will travel to Africa with the 13 essay winners.  

This year’s contest received a total of 164 essays, and the 13 students who won and will travel to Africa over Spring Break are listed by hometown.

Chelsea Killen, a freshman nursing major
Patrick Miller, a freshman pre-law major
Stayce Perez, a freshman nursing major

Taylor Lee, a freshman history major

Eranne Campsey, a freshman education major
Jordan Crouch, a freshman pre-medicine major

Victoria Arambula, a freshman general business major
Nicholas Hernandez, a freshman biology major

Galdino Griego, a freshman pre-law major

Kapolei, Hawaii    
Brittney Ervin, a freshman economics major

Jessica Rejon, a freshman social studies major

Brody Russell, a freshman chemistry major

Joel Brown, a freshman mechanical engineering major