San Marcos,
15:59 PM

Encouragement from Brother, CAMP Pays Off

By Eric Breier

Oscar Duran forwarded an email about a summer fellowship to his younger brother Juan with a succinct message:

You better apply for this.

Juan didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity. When Oscar asked how the application was going as the deadline loomed, Juan told him it was going fine – even though he hadn’t started it. Then he came clean and told Oscar he didn’t think he was going to apply.

Oscar wouldn’t take no for an answer, telling Juan that he would be rewarded for the effort.

And he was right.

Juan spent four weeks in Cape Town, South Africa, during the summer after being one of just 10 students nationally selected for the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship, which is made possible through a partnership between the Council on International Educational Exchange and the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

“If he hadn’t pushed me, I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity,” said Juan, a third-year history student at Cal State San Marcos. “He’s my role model. I can’t wait to have other students look at me like I look at my brother.”

While Oscar provided the initial push to apply, Juan said the staff of CSUSM’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) played a critical role in helping him complete the application in time.

Since 2002, CAMP has been helping CSUSM students from migrant and seasonal farm worker backgrounds succeed in college. CAMP staff assists with the pre-college transition process and offers first-year support services to help develop the skills students need to stay in school and graduate.

Unsure of how to go about obtaining the required letter of nomination from CSUSM President Karen Haynes, Juan reached out to CAMP.

“Juan’s desire to one day give back to his community and touch people’s lives became apparent since the moment I had the pleasure of meeting him in 2016,” said Kenia Monroy, a CAMP academic advisor. “His passion to further his education and contribute to society helped motivate him to apply for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I believe in Juan and his undeniable abilities to accomplish great things in life. His dedication to his academics, optimism and genuine heart will take him very far, and I am excited for what is to come.”

Juan left for South Africa on July 14 to participate in a fellowship designed to help students from minority-serving institutions enhance their leadership skills and cultural sensitivity.

Two of the most poignant parts of the trip were visits to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and the Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, where Winnie Mandela was incarcerated.

Seeing for the first time Nelson Mandela’s quote, “It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it,” has had a lasting impact on Juan.

“We all have a responsibility to create a better world, to give back to our community, to not forget where we come from,” Juan said. “If the elevator sends us up, we need to make sure to send it back down.”

As part of the program’s goal to have fellows present and share their study abroad experience, Juan created a video to share his story. He details what it was like growing up as the son of a farm worker, about the frustration of spending his weekends picking avocados with his father, how his father’s work ethic inspired him on his road to earning the fellowship and how he looks forward to repaying his father for the sacrifices he made for his children.

The fellowship was another step in Juan’s journey toward helping other K-12 students like him. While he originally planned to go straight into teaching after he graduates , he recently was accepted to CSUSM’s McNair Scholars Program, which helps students prepare for graduate school. Now, Juan is considering pursuing his doctorate and going into education administration so he can help influence educational policy.

“I want to give underrepresented kids an opportunity that’s not usual for them,” Juan said. “I want to make sure it becomes normal to give these students these opportunities and to see them in these spaces, to see them achieving college degrees. All of this is possible.”

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist | Office: 760-750-7314