Birds of Feather Flock Together: Part 2

By Jessica Knutzon, Co-editor

Part II: Global Family

The Brotherhood

Carlos opened a GoFundMe account and turned to a group of people he has grown close to during his year at Thunderbird – the rugby team. It is the oldest tradition at Thunderbird. For decades a strong relationship between students and alumni has withstood the test of time. Carlos explained, “The Thunderbird Rugby Club has always been there for everything we have ever needed. It’s a very tightknit group of alumni. I always tell the new students, ‘Even if you’re scared of playing rugby, just having those contacts for the rest of your life is going to be amazing.’”

When Carlos contacted Chuck Hamilton ‘91, the Chapter Leader of Thunderbird Alumni Rugby Association, his immediate reaction was to help Carlos. Chuck shared a link to Carlos’s GoFundMe page with the Thunderbird Alumni Rugby Association. They rallied and made the first donations to Carlos’s fund.

“At T-bird I only shared it [the GoFundMe page] with about eight people, four in Miami and my parents. And I can see the amount of people it was being shared with… it just got share upon share upon share. I initially did not post this webpage on Facebook. There was a lot of inner turmoil with asking for help and I know the situation of half these students, some of them have loans, some of them have their parents helping them out… so I was really surprised when people from here [Thunderbird] started donating very generous amounts.”

Carlos thought he was only going to get 1,000 USD in donations. With that money, his plan was to go to ASU and try to figure out a plan.

And after the donations poured in, Carlos thanked fellow Thunderbirds via-Facebook, which raised more awareness, subsequently bringing in more donations. “I got donations from Venezuelan alumni that have graduated in the last ten years. I’ve never met them or talked to them, they just said, ‘Hey I’m Venezuelan, I’m T-bird, and I understand.’ Staff, faculty, fellow students, and alumni all donated.”

Alumni from years ago, who Carlos has never interacted with before, heard about his cause and donated. Current students sent the GoFundMe link to their family and friends, so Carlos was receiving donations from all corners of the Earth.

Carlos was able to reach his funding goal to make a payment for his tuition and finish his degree at Thunderbird. In addition, he works at Thunderbird for Good for 20 hours a week to make money for his personal expenses.

“People really came through for me… I’m extremely thankful. I can’t thank people enough. Not only the people who donated, but also the people who couldn’t donate but offered to help in any way that they could.”

The Thunderbird Family

I asked Carlos what Thunderbird meant to him before this campaign began. He responded, “Honestly…when people tell you about a network, you’re skeptical at the beginning just because, yes, we went to the same school but it’s been a few years… a lot of changes have happened… the school has gone through many names changes and now we are part of ASU [Arizona State University]. I actually met the rugby alumni, so I knew they would pull through for me. But general alumni… I had no idea how much support I would get. Thunderbird always comes up at the top of the list for alumni network and it’s no joke.”

The Fall 2014 Thunderbird Rugby Team Photo courtesy of Carlos Melendez
The Fall 2014 Thunderbird Rugby Team
Photo courtesy of Carlos Melendez

Carlos, in addition to the donations, received letters and words of encouragement from Thunderbird alumni. “With no family here and no one who can really understand you, you feel deflated. So many people were sympathetic, others were not… and there are T-birds who understand what is going on in the world and understand that situations like these, like Venezuela’s currency extreme currency inflation, can happen.”

A friend who graduated recently from Thunderbird wrote to Carlos, “Something that really resonated with me,” Carlos said, “He said, ‘Birds of a feather flock together.’ And wow. That’s exactly what it felt like…. all these people at Thunderbird I’ve never met or maybe only spoken a few words to, who I know aren’t earning much money yet since they just graduated, were giving incredibly generous donations. People would tell me, ‘I want to see you finish. I want to see you be a T-bird.’ I haven’t been to any other business schools, but I don’t believe that this happens anywhere else. All these people supported this dream I have and this dream my family has.”

“My mom told me,” Carlos continues, “’I can’t believe people outside of your country support you more than your country supports you.’ People here in America… the T-bird community… embraced me.”

When asked to describe Thunderbird in two words, Carlos responded, “It’s a global family. With the rugby team it’s a brotherhood… and the T-bird community is just a big global family. Everyone talked to me…there wasn’t distance because someone graduated 20 or 30 years ago. They helped because we are family.”

This is the second part of a two-part series. The first part of this article was published on September 10, 2015. Click here to read the first half of this piece.

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