Hugo Moran Chavez
Posted: February 28, 2016 8:05 AM
What are some obstacles you have overcome to be a CAES master's student?
I am originally from a rural village in El Salvador. My parents’ house was located up the hill from a river called Rio Sucio. I remember being six years old when I started elementary school.
My first six years of elementary school were a nightmare, first because the closest school was one hour away from our house and the nearest bus station was 30 minutes, which for my family was not an option because we could not afford public transportation. Also, because the elementary school was located next to a middle-class neighborhood, and that made my experience even worse. I experienced bullying in many ways.
First I was treated as the poor little boy that never had money to buy lunch or snacks during school breaks. Second, I never got into sports because I thought I was too small. Both getting involve in sports and being from a low resources family separated me from other kids.
When I started middle school, I was bullied and treated as being boring, scary, weak, and unfriendly, simply because my family was of small resources and I was not into any sports. My experience in high school was almost the same, but this time, it was even worse because I received a scholarship to study in a private Agricultural high school. There, I was bullied again for being poor and for not playing any sports.
El Salvador is far from Athens, Georgia. How did you choose UGA CAES?
Hugo helps recruits students for the ODR Mentoring Among Peers Program.
Hugo, with his "My CAES Story" t-shirt.
I was working as a student intern in a call center when I received a called from the top agricultural university in Latin America informing me that I was accepted and received the scholarship. This period of my life from 2010-2013 changed my life. I made many friends, I met students with a similar background, and many doors began to open. However, I was still not believing in myself.
I came to the U.S. in 2014 to do a 1-year internship in a horse farm, located in Covington, GA. My sponsor, a retired professor from UGA, taught me about horse management and through her mentoring and support, I was encouraged to apply to UGA.
Another amazing person from Ecuador and Alumni of CAES supported me and believed in me, too. I also met one day with the department head of ALEC, who encouraged me to apply! That night I went to bed thinking that people believed I could be successful. The next day, I applied to ALEC because I wanted to learn about agricultural and environmental education—as one of my dreams is that one day I can go back to my country and teach to my people.
When I was accepted to CAES, I was scared of the many challenges ahead. However, also at that time when I started classes, I was still dealing with my personal problems—my self-esteem was small, I felt no one believed in me, depression, and I got to the point that every single action I was doing, it was disappointing.
However, God has surrounded me with faculty, staff, friends, family and people here in CAES that believe in me, and that has helped me to be a better person, taught me to love others, and more important to love myself and work hard. Through assistance from many people, I have been able to rise from the ashes of my past and become a new person.
Are there any accomplishments you've made through CAES of which you are particularly proud?
To give a brief example of my accomplishments, I presented research at the NACTA conference here at UGA last summer; I also gave a TED talk as a semifinalist on how Latin America can help feed 9 billion people by 2050, and this semester I participated in the UGA IRC conference, where I won best paper presentation.
I am also doing research on the factors that affect the success of Latino international students, because I want to start giving back for all the blessings I have always received and what better way to start than helping my Latino peers.
I am ready to go out into the world and be a change agent and fight the many problems that we face. I am so blessed that I met many amazing people here in CAES; I will never forget how CAES has changed my life forever. ¡Gracias CAES!