Rams Against Hunger: A success story

CSU President Tony Frank congratulates Carlos Modesto, who won the Jackson Distinguished Scholar Award for first-generation students.

By any definition, Carlos Modesto is a CSU success story.

The son of an undocumented migrant worker, he was raised in poverty but was determined to make a better life for himself and his family. He will graduate in December with a degree in construction management and hopes to one day own his own concrete construction company.

“My mom didn’t want me to go to college – she thinks college is all parties and not necessary,” Modesto said. “But she recently told me she was proud of me. That’s one of the first times she’s ever said that to me. It was pretty amazing.”

The road to graduation has been anything but easy. While attending Greeley Central High School, Modesto got involved in the Upward Bound program, which got him interested in attending CSU. He received scholarship help from Upward Bound and qualified for a First Generation Award from CSU to help pay for school.

After a rough start as a freshman – “It took me awhile to find my niche,” he said. – Modesto has become actively involved in campus life through SLiCE (Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement). He has spent the past two spring breaks working on a project in Tucson, Ariz., called “No More Deaths” and has worked locally with Habitat for Humanity and other community outreach projects.

Finding help

Still, despite his scholarships and working part-time in a fast-food restaurant, money is tight. His mother and step-father have two young children at home and live paycheck-to-paycheck, so they are unable to provide any financial support.

Living off-campus and without a car, he often was unable to get to his apartment between classes to grab breakfast or lunch.

“It’s hard to focus on your academics when you’re always hungry,” he said.

That’s when, while working at SLiCE, Modesto heard about Rams Against Hunger. Rams Against Hunger provides emergency food relief to students who have no idea where their next meal is coming from or how to pay for it. More than 2,800 CSU students – nearly 10 percent of the campus – experiences food insecurity.

Rams Against Hunger, supported by donations from faculty and staff, alumni and friends of the university, provided Modesto with a card to get two meals daily at one of the CSU dining centers.

“Lots of college students complain about having to eat ramen, but I grew up eating ramen. Here, I sometimes went a day or two without food,” he said. “Rams Against Hunger has made a huge difference for me.”

Willy Salinas will graduate in December with a degree in health and exercise science and a minor in biomedical science.

Living with hunger

Willy Salinas, who will graduate in December with a degree in health and exercise science and a minor in biomedical science, tells a similar tale. He grew up in Carbondale on Colorado’s Western Slope in poverty.

“My family was always financially unstable, and I would go with my mom to the local food bank to get a box of food to help us get through the week,” he said. “I learned at a young age to be silent about my family and our struggles, but now I encourage people who are struggling to take advantage of the resources that are available. I’ve been dealing with food insecurity my whole life, and there’s no shame in that.”

Salinas works in the SLiCE office and has enjoyed becoming a leader on the community service projects organized by the office. Meals, however, often were missed because of financial hardship and work schedules.

Rams Against Hunger provided much-needed relief.

“It has made a huge difference for me,” he said. “Now I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.”

Modesto and Salinas both want to thank donors for making the program possible – and for changing their lives.

“I feel like I found myself at CSU, and now I’ve evolved into the person I want to be the rest of my life,” said Salinas. “It makes me happy knowing there’s a program like Rams Against Hunger because it can really change a student’s life. I’m so appreciative of it.”

Thankful for donor support

Modesto, who recently won the Jackson Distinguished Scholar Award for first-generation students, is grateful to all donors.

CSU_StateYourPurposeSolid_RGB_357“It’s always been hard for me to ask for help, but CSU was there to help me when I needed it,” he said. “I just want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has supported Rams Against Hunger. What they have done for me is what I want to do for future students. I want to give back to the program and help kids like me. I know what a difference it makes.”

April 21 is Day of Giving

CSU’s second annual “Love Your State Day of Giving” is April 21. You can support various programs across campus – including Rams Against Hunger and First Generation scholarships – that day.