Community Voices - Carlos Mendez

CarlosCarlos Mendez is going to be a senior at Oberlin High School this year. A Ninde Scholar himself, this summer he worked for the Aspiring Ninde Summer Scholars program as a Summer Fellow. As a Fellow, he assisted the Summer Instructors and acted as a role model for the Aspiring Ninde Scholars. Carlos is very committed to sustainability and also attended the Foresight Prep at Oberlin summer program in which he and his group members identified impactful solutions for food related challenges.

Q: What is your name?

Carlos Mendez: Carlos Mendez.

Q: And what grade are you going to be in?

I am a rising senior at the high school.

Q: What words or images would you use to describe Oberlin?

Oberlin is really unique, so probably “unique” I would say. And everyone is really themselves -- just, I would say, just true -- true to themselves. Everybody expresses who they are. That’s what I like about Oberlin. Everybody’s really open. It’s really diverse, too.

Q: You moved here from Kansas, right? How did that happen? How did you feel after the move?

Well when I moved I didn’t think much of it, because I had moved prior to that like three times. But once I started to settle here in Ohio I started to really like it. I was more open. I started to explore the town, that’s something I wouldn’t do in Kansas, and I just met a whole new range of people with different interests. And that got me into stuff like basketball, it got me curious about environmental science, and business, and I think it’s really an essential part to who I am now. I feel like I would be completely different if I stayed in Kansas. Because every day in Kansas I would just stay inside playing videogames. I would rarely go outside. And now here don’t want to stay inside. I want to go outside and explore.

Q: That’s so true because there’s just so much going on.

Yeah, so many events in Tappan square -- just lots to do. I kind of like how it’s a small town so you can go everywhere.

Q: You know a lot about sustainability from all the stuff you’ve been doing, and we’ve talked a lot about it in the Ninde program -- what does sustainability mean to you?

Well sustainability does have a lot of definitions, but to me I would say responsible use of our natural resources and conserving the inherent value of our environment.

Q: Very cool. And how does that affect your own life?

It’s not a drastic change to my life, but it’s like lots of things I see around town whether it’s trash in the river or lying on the ground or something, or that activity we did during the sustainability topic when we just sat down for fifteen minutes and heard our surroundings. And at first it was nice and peaceful but then I heard construction and the cars going by and it’s kind of disrupting your peace.

Q: Yeah I liked that the sound or sensory walk. There’s something about experiencing Oberlin in a different way than just when you’re walking around. What are you doing that’s really into sustainability?

Well, first thing is probably the three Rs -- reduce, reuse, recycle. But then also I feel like the important thing is to spend time telling other people what is going on. Because a lot of time people are just unaware of it. Like my mom she used to buy plastic water bottles every week and I was like, “Mom, you don’t really need to do that. You can just get water from the tap or filter or something.” And I finally convinced her. And every time I learn something I tell her, and she tells my sister, and it just spreads. And I feel like that helps a lot because that’s better than just one person helping out. Spreading it and making a lot of people help out. It’s word of mouth.

Q: That’s one of the cool things about you being in the [Ninde] program, too, because those kids look up to you. How do you feel about being a role model in that way?

It feels really good actually. Because I remember kind of being their age and I thought, “Oh, he’s a senior, he’s really cool.” And that’s how they see me. I just try to represent myself in a nice way, just think about my responses, making sure I have a nice change to them. Because I know going into my freshman year I was naive I didn’t really listen, I didn’t care about a lot of things. I’m just trying to teach them, “Oh, explore things,” and just being responsible, and just be curious.

Q: That’s really cool. It’s nice that you want to encourage them, not scare them.

 Yeah.

Q: Is there anything you would like to tell other people in Oberlin about caring for the environment?

Just whenever you can, whenever you’re in a certain situation and you see there’s trash on the floor just pick it up, or if you’re going somewhere that’s nearby don’t use your car, just ride your bike. Limit your use of plastic, you don’t really need a plastic bag just bring one from your house and reuse that. Just little stuff like that. When you’re done with appliances unplug it because you’re not even home  --  a lot of people when they leave they still leave everything connected: lights on, TV on, and you just need to unplug it. Just the little stuff that helps.

Q: And you’re going to college next year.

I am.

Q: How are you feeling about leaving Oberlin, coming back on vacation, what are those thoughts?

It’s really exciting. And in a way it’s really liberating, just kind of being free because right now I am kind of restricted to a lot of things because I have to babysit my two sisters a lot and that kind of restricts what I want to do. But in college I feel like I’ll do whatever leads me to do like explore, meet new people, and just lots of free time -- and also just focusing on my studies.

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