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Alex B

“If I put half as much effort into my outside life as I do in the gym I will accomplish great things.”

I wanted to start by mentioning someone who has had a positive influence on me throughout the challenge. Ken Fernandez stood by me during my first workout offering support and advise on form, and has always been someone to compete with. I remember him mentioning that if I put half as much effort into my outside life as I do in the gym I will accomplish great things.  I took Ken’s advice for this challenge and focused on two things outside the gym that were the most important to me: Helping others, and graduating with as much nursing knowledge as possible.  I didn’t give up my healthy lifestyle, but incorporated it into my new goals. Without Fitmania I would never have attempted such a demanding (seemingly impossible) three months, would have refused any sort of public speaking due to my fears and lack of self-confidence, and would not have realized the positive influence I can have on so many individuals around me.

My first goal involved the Peruvian sheepherders. I learned of these sheepherders through the Boise State’s Nursing Program and the community nursing clinical. These herders are brought in from Peru and journey over 50,000 acres with their bands of sheep around Southwest Idaho. Given their occupation, they lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle, living in tents during the summer, and in 80 year old herder wagons in the winter. They are socially and geographically isolated most of the time, only having conversation with others biweekly when they get groceries delivered. These herders lack access to healthcare services or providers, and minimal abilities to speak English making them vulnerable when needing help. Their job requires them to protect the sheep they are entrusted with for 24 hours a day, and travel on foot for up to 20 miles a day. Compensation for this laborious job includes a $1200 check every month, and this money is sent back to support their families in Peru.

When I first met one of them, I remember seeing the layers of soiled clothes he wore, cans of mystery foods without labels, and the wagon which offered little protection from a freezing Idaho winter. What was impressive about this man, and the rest of the sheepherders, is how despite the obvious hardships, he was so grateful to be in America. Regardless of the sacrifices he had to make, he is able to provide his family with some of the “American Dream” Peruvians often dreamed about.

Working with this population had such a positive impact on my nursing career, and I was surprised when the Nursing Program cancelled the clinical. I knew my main focus for the next 90 days had to involve the sheepherders, and not let them disappear from the awareness of others. So, the first step taken the creation of “Boise’s Association for the Advancement of the Herders (BAAH).” I helped create, and became President, of this Boise State organization composed of students and community members. I helped organize fundraisers, led meetings, stood at booth during Boise State Events to increase membership, facilitated events to celebrate the sheepherder’s birthdays, led interventions to get them food and clothing, and worked with other student organizations.

I also interviewed to be part of the Boise State’s first ETHOS Project Symposium in which 6 out of 23 projects (abstract submission and interview process) were selected to highlight engagement and passion of undergraduates from across all university disciplines. The ETHOS project required weekly meetings to brainstorm, develop, revise, fine tune, and revise the message I wanted to deliver. I received no school credits or perks for all this extra work, but enabled me to give the best presentation possible as I advocated for the sheepherders. The event was so successful that it was standing room only.  Additionally, I contributed to the development of a professional poster about the sheepherder project, and we were selected as “Best of Show” in the Service Learning in Action Exhibition at Boise State. This was a university-wide competition among all disciplines and while only 30 out of 72 posters were selected, it was a great honor to be selected as best of show.  Similarly, we submitted another professional poster about the sheepherder project to a national nursing conference for which two out of twelve students were selected to present about our work at the Western Institute of Medicine conference in Anaheim, California.

My second goal during the 90 days involved using the dedication I learned from the gym and applying it to the nursing program.  In order to achieve this goal, I obtained permission to retake the previous medical-surgical nursing classes, so my semester went from a 12 credit load to 18 credit load.  This decision came as a result of feeling overwhelmed (it felt impossible for me to retain all the information throughout the nursing program) so to ensure that I become the best nurse I can be.

To my surprise and despite all my activities I selected to be involved with, my dedication to my health did not alter or suffer. I woke up at 5 am for gym in order to spend long days on campus, and would attend the 4:30pm class on my 4am-4pm days doing dialysis. The constant 12 hour days required strict food planning if I was to keep up a healthy diet. I divided my cooking into 3 days during the week, and made large amounts of healthy and nutritionally sound foods. And, it was only during the time that I spent cooking that I allowed myself to catch up on any TV shows, so I came to appreciate making my weekly meals!






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