Sunday, February 20, 2011

DMT Scholarship Runner-ups: Alando

[This entry has been written by my friend and DMT Executive VP, Josh Pruyn.]

We have a winner. After completing the daunting task of reading hundreds of essays, we’ve agreed on one trip as our favorite.

But… we’re not going to share that little tidbit of information quite yet. Instead, we thought we’d first share the dreams of a few of our more noteworthy candidates.

Having to read over 350 essays (averaging 2.5 typed pages each—perhaps the equivalent of 3-4 books) seemed like an overwhelming task, but it was, in reality, a privilege. Deciding between our favorites was even more difficult. We requested additional information, created and scrapped rating systems, swapped favorites, and had many nights of “Let’s sleep on this.”

Despite all of this, we fully intend on offering the scholarship again. The dreams of our applicants were adventurous, creative, daring, and—most of all—inspiring. While we at first wondered if we would get any worthy candidates, we were pleased to discover that there were dozens of people who were qualified and deserving.

These essays were a pleasure to read. Such tales remind us of how remarkable it is to truly have a dream—how your mind and emotions swirl together and zero-in on the conscious imagery of often vague hopes—just the thought of which makes you feel alive.

Alando was one of our favorites.

At just 13 years of age, Alando—out dirt-biking with his 75-year-old grandfather—stared at a steep hill concerned about how to get over. His grandfather gave him a piece of advice that forever stuck with him.

“You just point your bike at it and attack that son-of-a-bitch.”

It doesn’t take long to realize this guy is, as Ken puts it, “bad-ass.” Alando is a junior, and, like most students, has already racked up some hefty student debt. Unrestrained by a false need to graduate on schedule, he is taking a year off from school to pursue a more worldly education:

In the summer of 2011, I will travel to New Delhi, India and then north to Shimla, Himachel Pradesh, on the edge of the Indian Himalaya. From there I will spend the next two months cycling north in the mountains through the Himachel Pradesh and into the Kashmir and Jammu provinces. A little more than halfway through the trip after arriving in the city of Leh, I’ll store my bicycle for two weeks and backpack through the Zanskar and Stok mountain ranges.

I remember my thoughts the first time I read that: “hole-lee shit.” It takes balls to decide to quit school for a year. It takes balls to go on a two-month cycling trip, especially in the Himalaya’s (where he’s never been). One of the mountains he is hiking to is Tanglang La, which reaches an altitude of 17,581 feet.

Any initial skepticism I had about him being able to handle this trip was put to rest:

Over the past three summers I’ve cycled around, through and across North America, including most recently a solo self-supported 3500+ miles trip from Brooklyn, NY to Vancouver, BC.

Bad-ass, indeed. But Alando is much more than that. His application was fraught with idealism and filled with goals—goals to make himself a more knowledgeable global citizen. He’s driven by the same curiosity to actually see for himself “what’s out there.”

[Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons]

Unfortunately with just one award to give, we were not able to help him reach such an incredible dream. When we told him that we couldn’t help, he thanked us for creating the scholarship and included these words of wisdom:

Each day in the news politicians are discussing educational reforms that will make the US more “globally competitive” by emphasizing math and science skills. While these things are undoubtedly important, I believe that a culture that is “globally competitive” is one that has a true knowledge of what's out there beyond the borders.

Add "wise" to Alando’s list of qualifications. It’s truly a shame we are not able to be a greater part in Alando’s dream. We hope that with the support of the readers of this blog, we’ll be able to recreate this scholarship and give future Alando’s the support to pursue their dreams.

P.S. Alando – we look forward to receiving a picture from the top of Tanglang La.


Rob said...

Cool story...I hope he still gets to go.

Anonymous said...

keep it up alando!

c nguyen said...

Badass indeed! Good luck, Alando!!