Quite a Climb

News Feature

News & Events

February 16, 2017

For the seventh year in a row, Bridgewater State University will be represented at Posters on the Hill in Washington, D.C., the most selective venue in the country for undergraduate research. 

 

Melvin Caballero is one of 60 undergraduates nationwide selected to present their research in the Rayburn House Office Building to U.S. senators, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, legislative aides, and staff of government agencies. His project was a memoir that recorded his experiences coming to the United States from his native Latin America.

 

“Mel is one of the most inspiring students I’ve ever met,” said Jenny Shanahan, director of Undergraduate Research at BSU.

 

Dr. Alba Aragón, who has a joint faculty position in English and global languages and literatures, is Melvin’s mentor. After hearing the story of how he arrived in the United States, she encouraged him to write a memoir.

 

Last year, he was awarded an Adrian Tinsley Program summer grant to conduct research on unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. border from Central America and to write the account of his own experience. After reading parts of Melvin’s memoir – which he composed in Spanish and then translated into English – Dr. Shanahan encouraged him to apply to Posters on the Hill.

 

Best told in his own words, here is part of Melvin’s story:

 

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.

 

Several hundred students apply each year to present their research in the Rayburn House Office Building to U.S. Senators, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, legislative aides, and staff of government agencies. BSU has the longest running streak in the country of having students selected for Posters on the Hill, having been every year since 2011, making this the university’s seventh time in seven years. Several of those years, BSU has sent two students to the event.