Melvin Caballero, ’17, has led quite a life. He was born in Honduras, but at the age of 16 knew that staying there meant a life spent working six days a week for low pay picking coffee beans. He wanted more. He wanted an education and a chance at a better, more fulfilling life.
His journey, from his home country, to the United States where he found a home in Massachusetts and at BSU, and then to Washington, D.C., as a star undergraduate researcher, now has a new chapter. Friday, Melvin was at the Massachusetts Statehouse to be recognized as the university’s 2017 “29 Who Shine” representative. The designation comes via a state program that recognizes a student from each of Massachusetts’ public campuses who has shown academic achievement, leadership, and community service.
It’s hard to imagine a more worthy student, especially after reading part of Melvin’s memoir, which earned him the recent trip to the nation’s capital, as one of 60 students selected from across the country to participate in Posters on the Hill.
Here is just a part of that memoir, which details Melvin’s harrowing journey to the U.S.
At age 16, I traveled alone across Honduras and Guatemala to Mexico. At the border of Mexico, I was deceived by human traffickers into making the crossing inside a trailer, crammed with 120 people for 36 hours, in 95-degree heat. Somehow I survived, only to face another danger at the U.S. border, where I swam across the Rio Grande. Feeling the force of water pulling me down, I feared I would die; yet a desire to carry on drew me to the other side. I then walked through the desert for days, thirsty and hungry. I was arrested in Texas and sent to a minors’ detention center for four months.
Amazingly, my lawyer found a family who sponsored my petition to gain legal status and, eventually, U.S. citizenship. Now, eight years later, I’m a college senior with a 3.4 GPA who was awarded a grant to write my story. I’ve worked through college as crew manager at McDonald’s and IHOP and have spent spring breaks serving migrant farmworkers in Florida and the homeless in Arizona.
On hand for the Statehouse ceremony was President Frederick W. Clark Jr. and Director of Undergraduate Research Jenny Shanahan. They and Melvin enjoyed a photo op with Gov. Charlie Baker. His mentor for his undergraduate research project was Professor Alba Aragón.
Melvin’s words upon receiving the “29 Who Shine” honor were, as expected, gracious and humble: “Thank you Jenny Olin Shanahan, Alba Aragón, President Clark, and all the Bridgewater State University staff. It is for me an honor to be able to graduate in a few days from such a great school with beautiful, warm and encouraging people who have supported me to the fullest.” (Story by John Winters, G ’11, University News & Media)