Inside USD

Cyclists for Change

Monday, September 19, 2011

Change begins by taking one step forward, no matter how small, no matter how wide.

For University of San Diego students Nathan Phillips and Kyle Sharp, one step forward wasn’t quite enough. Instead, the two freshmen decided to take a few bike pedals forward from Astoria, Ore. to the USD campus, a journey that took 15 days from Aug. 11 to 25 and totaled 1,450 miles.

The purpose? To support Invisible Children, a San Diego-based organization seeking to end the conflict in central Africa and stop the use of children as soldiers.

Phillips had mentioned to a friend that he wanted to do a big bike ride before school and then realized he could do it in support of a worthwhile cause. He had visited Uganda during high school and worked in an orphanage there. He was also inspired by a presentation by Invisible Children at his high school.

He had found his step forward.

“I have been to Uganda and personally gotten to know some of the kids affected by the war,” Phillips said. “They have scars and burns from the soldiers. They have no homes or families. I would do anything to help these kids.” With a heart for change, Phillips began his trip down the western coast. He then met up with his future roommate, Sharp, who joined him for the last 610 miles. Together the two arrived at the USD campus before move-in day.

Inspiration travels fast. Word of the two students’ journey reached USD’s Del Dickson, professor of political science and international relations, and Steve Pultz, assistant vice president of Enrollment Management, who offered to meet in Torrey Pines, about 20 miles from the USD campus, and travel with them during the last leg of the ride. Upon arriving to campus, the cyclists were met by many USD supporters, as well as representatives from Invisible Children.

“I was stunned by the incredible support the USD community had for our cause,” said Sharp. “I was honored by everyone’s reaction and proud to be a new Torero.”

Now, the two students have begun classes and have settled into their new USD home. But they are certainly proof of how one person can make a difference for a noble cause, and have some wise words of advice for their fellow peers who wish to do the same.

“To fellow students who want to help others locally or globally, I would say don’t be scared to fully immerse yourself,” said Phillips. “It can be something big or small. It really doesn’t matter as long as you put your heart behind your actions.”

Added Sharp, “My advice would be to have determination. No matter what you do, it takes determination to accomplish your goals and prevents you from quitting, even when challenges seem overwhelming.”

Kelly Machleit

Photos by Chris Keeney

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