It all started in January of 2011. I was sitting in a booth at Red Robin with my best friend. When we were younger we would go on short bike rides, 10 miles here, 10 miles there. Reminiscing on old times, I brought up the idea of us going on some sort of cycling adventure over the summer.
He turned me down promptly.
Fast-forward to March, 2011. The cycling idea had slowly grown on me. I had formulated a plan of starting in Astoria, Oregon, and cycling all the way down the coast to the USD campus to start off my freshman year. With the idea in my head, I went into a normal Thursday convocation at my school. Presenting that day was a group of volunteers from Invisible Children, a San Diego-based organization seeking to end the conflict in central Africa and stop the use of children as soldiers. They showed a documentary about the atrocities happening in Uganda and talked about their personal experiences with children affected by the war. I was immediately hooked.
Back between my freshman and sophomore years of high school I had the opportunity to travel to Uganda myself. When the Invisible Children representatives spoke, I felt an immediate connection and knew that I needed to ride to raise money to help their cause.
After that, everything seemed to fall into place. I sent out over 100 support letters and made a game plan: 14 days and 1,400 miles. I emptied my bank account in order to outfit myself for the ride. The donations started pouring in along with a bike and cycling jerseys.
On August 11, I departed from Astoria and set off on highway 101 down the coast. The journey was the hardest thing I have ever accomplished, but every single pedal was worth it. I ended up raising $2,700 for Invisible Children. The adventure has inspired me to continue with my community involvement. I am hoping to intern with Invisible Children, possibly as soon as this upcoming summer.
The cycling trip has affected my life significantly. I have been able to share my story with numerous students at USD, hopefully inspiring a few of them. Beyond that, I have been changed on a personal level. I know that I can accomplish literally anything I set my mind to. I am no longer afraid to tackle something hard. And most importantly, I am now inspired to do whatever it takes to change this world for the better.
— Nathan Phillips ‘15
Nathan’s essay was submitted in response to the USD Torero Store’s National Student Day essay contest, which asked students to describe their social responsibility. Photos by Chris Keeney.