As the son of migrant workers, Glen Galindo spent just enough time picking grapes and apricots around California's San Joaquin Valley to grasp his dad's message: Do well in school so you can have a better life, free of this exhausting work.
He did, among the thousands helped since 1972 by the federal College Assistance Migrant Program After stints in the Marines, as an entrepreneur, and as a college adviser, Galindo set out to give back.
Galindo became CAMP director at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, in 2002. There he conceived of what has become the rapidly expanding Cesar E. Chavez Blood Drive Challenge, which gives first-generation college students a bit of cash and a lot of confidence.
Galindo, 45, now serves as executive director of the Migrant Students Foundation, which spearheads the blood drive. Its signature program last year bestowed $1,000 on eight standout campus organizers, including Vivian Esparza, a premed biology major at the University of Texas (Austin), and Celina Venegas, a three-year leader at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
Here he explains the program and its large purpose.
We didn't have many Hispanic kids in our college. But I did have a few hearty CAMP scholarships. I had to convince parents to trust me, and send their kids to someplace they didn't personally know, yet had heard it was the land of white supremacy. But I managed to convince 12 students to come up. I recruited students from an average of 700 miles away. As the son of migrant workers myself, these families could tell I knew what I was talking about. But the staff on his college had no experience or background of working with migrant students. I needed something for the students to self-introduce themselves. I needed something positive to tie them to the local community. I needed something for them to do as a cohort, something to address their fear of being away from home, their fear from being the first to go away from home—a way to create relationships with their new college community. I needed a way to help give them the confidence that they could succeed.
So they went around and introduced themselves and invited themselves to be associated with a positive event, a blood drive. Three of them wanted to go into nursing, so that immediately gave them a relationship with nursing staff and faculty. They overcame the fear of the needle together. [Donating blood] is scary, and it was comical for them to wear that literal badge of honor, and that shared experience helped break the ice. It helped encouraged them to also have a health-issues discussion within the community. So that was the local need we met.
Then I thought I'd share the idea with the other 43 federal grant college campuses serving students with a migrant/seasonal farmworking background. This platform gave my students the opportunity to lead a campus-wide event. My goal was to help the other CAMP students on the large campuses, but then I thought this event might be an avenue to lead across cultures, across socioeconomic backgrounds, across academic disciplines.
It worked. We've now seen over 70,000 students participate nationwide in more than 250 universities in 32 states.
What CAMP is is a home away from home—a shoulder to cry on, a finger-point in the right direction, everything [to] ... help them be successful, so that they feel they belong on that campus.… I know that behind each one of those kids are parents like mine that wants something better.… All those kids are really a two-generation project like I am. I am extremely aware that I am living my father's dream.
Now I can see how within a few short years every college and high school in the nation may be participating with us. Our donor-recruitment efforts now include promoting bone marrow and solid organ registry. Truly, it's all becoming a platform for all health awareness issues. By honoring Cesar E. Chavez, we are affording all American students the opportunity to also learn about the value and contributions made by our migrant/seasonal farmworking community. Every day I have discussions as I break people's paradigm, as I introduce Chavez to them as an American civic leader. "Yes, he is as American as Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan," I love to say. Cesar E. Chavez was simply a World War II vet who came home from the battlefield and decided to continue to fight against the injustices he found back at home in America. He is a great role model for all Americans and we're proud to honor him in his very positive campaign of selfless sacrifice for community service. Donating blood is something that costs you nothing, and can save up to three lives.
In 2014, Galindo expects the blood drive will be conducted at more than 300 campuses nationwide. His goal this year is to raise sufficient funds to award $1,000 scholarships to the top 50 finishers.