Jeremy Alcazar is passionate about mentoring active, energetic children who may be labeled as “challenging.” For him, this work is personal.
Alcazar, now a freshman at Colorado State University majoring in psychology, was thought of as a “difficult kid” in his youth, he said. He often participated in Boys and Girls Club, and described himself as the one student mentors would dread having back in their classroom.
Alcazar was lucky to have a network of adults who took the time to help and coach him. Now, as a volunteer in Little Shop of Physics, he is serving youth in the community and giving them the same chances to succeed.
Labeled early on
Alcazar’s initial struggles in school weren’t for lack of intelligence or drive. He was quite smart, just high-energy, and he needed guidance on where to put that energy.
Unfortunately, educators sometimes write off high-energy children early, and don’t give them the chance to succeed.
“Luckily for me, I had really good mentors and people who had patience with me, and kind of helped me grow,” he said.
Alcazar had a peer with similar needs who wasn’t given the same support, and “we went on, like, totally different paths,” he said.
This is behind Alcazar’s continued commitment to volunteering with younger students.
“All kids are good kids, some of them just need a little more attention than others,” he said. “That’s what drives me. I want to help those kids. I want them to grow up and be whatever they want to be. That’s something that’s really important to me.”
Channeling his energy
Through middle school and early high school, Alcazar was still struggling in the classroom.
It took the tragic loss of a friend to cause him to pause and reflect on his current trajectory.
Alcazar began to apply some of the lessons he’d learned in childhood. He channeled his energy into any and every activity available to him.
He played and excelled in three varsity sports: football, wrestling and baseball. He joined student council his sophomore year, and after three years working in student government, ran for and won student body president. During his junior and senior years he was a part of National Honor Society and completed his junior and senior years of high school with a 4.6 GPA.
Despite his intense focus on athletics and academics, Alcazar was also driven to volunteer at the local rotary club and the Boys and Girls Club in Montrose, Colorado. Giving back to the community became an essential part of who he is.
Saying thank you
After achieving so much and graduating high school, Alcazar went back to his elementary school teachers to thank them for not giving up on him.
“I know it probably must have been really hard for them to have all that patience with me and not get to see those results right away, so I really wanted to go and remind them: ‘Hey, like, I’m doing really good. I really appreciate everything you did for me,’” he said.
Alcazar knows that teachers deal with challenging students every year, and it was important for him to thank them personally for their dedication to his success and wellbeing. After benefitting from so many kind adults, Alcazar hopes to serve children in the same way.
Many times, he sees himself in them.
Life at CSU
When it was time to start college, Alcazar had initially planned to play collegiate baseball, but an injury prevented him from following that path. With that off the table, he sought out big schools with plenty of sports programs, academic choices, and a fun, relaxed student body.
The Amplify learning community was a big support for Alcazar during his first year. He learned a lot from the Amplify leaderships fellows, and was also able to share his own knowledge with his peers in the community.
“Jeremy was a beacon of light and laughter for the community,” said Alexandra Keller, director of Amplify. “He is so unabashedly himself – charismatic, perceptive, bold.”
Amplify connected Alzacar with Little Shop of Physics, which provided the perfect opportunity to continue working with kids and giving back to the community.
Life at CSU has been pretty good for Alcazar so far. He works out early in the morning and finishes schoolwork before noon. With the rest of the day to fill, he usually finds himself in the Little Shop of Physics lab.
“He felt passionate about sharing science with kids who, like himself, were full of energy and just needed someone to focus their learning,” said Heather Michalak, assistant director of Little Shop of Physics. “In the Spring semester, we were looking for someone to engage weekly with a zesty teenage group at the Boys and Girls Club, when he reached out to partner with us for a scholarship opportunity. It was the perfect fit!
“As is the way in Little Shop, Jeremy took what he learned and presented it in his own way,” she continued. “The kids and other staff also raved about Jeremy. I believe he inspired kids to do science in their own ways and at their own pace.”
Shaping science and community
Between his involvement with Amplify and Little Shop, it is clear that Alcazar’s character and hard work shines through in his academics and extracurriculars.
“Jeremy both shapes and is shaped by science,” said Keller. “He influences the sciences because he brings distinct experiences which shape the unique way he asks questions and approaches solutions. As someone with a strong connection to his cultural identities, which have been traditionally underrepresented in science, Jeremy brings his full self to his work in a way most scientists do not.”
Beth Wittman, the former student coordinator in Amplify, agrees.
“He has shown incredible growth in recognizing the strength that comes from knowing yourself and being connected to your community while endeavoring to be a part of the academic science world,” she said. “Because Jeremy is in science, crucially, he also brings science back with him in his life outside of academia. He effects change in his everyday life as a family member, community member, and mentor to younger students like him at the Boys and Girls Club.”
Alcazar plans to bring this same humility and honesty with him as he continues on to his sophomore year of college. Whatever comes next, he knows that giving back to the community and sharing his expertise will always be a part of his lifestyle.
“I always want to be involved, whether I’m donating or being active, that’s going to be a part of me wherever I go, in whatever career I do,” he said.
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