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Student with big dreams wins MLK Student Servant-Leadership Award

January 05, 2011

Inspired by the example of mentors in his life, last summer ASU senior Alex Wilson went to Tanzania, where he taught in a community about health and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and tutored in an orphanage. The experience made him dream even bigger.


Now the ASU pre-med senior is raising funds to build a trade school in Tanzania, and he plans to move there to start construction following his graduation in May. He began a 120-mile pledge walk at 7 a.m., Jan. 3, to raise funds for the endeavor.


Wilson has been chosen for ASU’s 2011 MLK Student Servant-Leadership award, for his commitment to leading others through volunteer service. He will be honored at the annual MLK celebration breakfast on Jan. 20, at 7 a.m. in the Memorial Union of the Tempe campus. He also will speak at an MLK Student Rally at 11:30 a.m. Attorney Herb Ely will receive a Servant-Leadership award at the breakfast also.


For Alex, the seed of an idea started when he taught free swim lessons to 20 children in the summer of 2009, asking them to donate canned foods for a food bank in exchange. At the time he was working full-time, running the city swimming program for his hometown. He saved his money to make the initial trip to Tanzania.


To further his efforts overseas, the energetic, goal-driven young man has founded a non-profit organization, R.I.S.E. Worldwide. His 120-mile pledge walk is taking him from his hometown of Sandwich, Mass. to Provincetown, near Cape Cod, and back. He plans to walk all day and night.


Next summer Wilson plans to ride his bike across the United States, from San Diego to Boston, to raise funds for the school construction. He also hopes to get other ASU students involved the Tanzanian project, and he plans to sell wrist bands on a website and apply for grants.


Wilson hopes to create partnerships between schools in the United States and those in Tanzania, for tutoring activities and a language exchange via laptop computers and video cameras. He’d like to recruit young adult volunteers to teach for a period of time in Africa.


He hopes eventually to establish trade schools in other African countries, to encourage education and entrepreneurship in struggling communities.


Currently Wilson sponsors an 18-year-old young man in Tanzania whom he met begging on the streets. He is paying his $400 per semester private school tuition.


During the school year, Wilson works as a biomechanical obesity researcher in the lab of ASU Professor Devin Jindrich. In May he’ll receive a degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in human physiology, and a minor in non-profit management. Eventually he plans to get an M.D. and Ph.D. so he can practice in third world countries and teach part-time.