Eduardo Medina knows what it means to be in need. He understands the transformative power of kindness and generosity.
Now, as he prepares to graduate from Arkansas Tech University, his life and his determination to give back are evidence of what happens when a helping hand connects with a person of great potential.
Medina was among dozens of ATU fraternity and sorority members who fanned out across Russellville on Friday, April 5, to deliver 40,123 food items to elementary schools and River Valley Food 4 Kids. The donated items were gathered as part of the annual Greeks Give Back program administered by the ATU Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
The food will help support the Russellville School District backpack program that ensures elementary students have access to a reliable supply of nutritious, easy to prepare food.
A native of Wickes in southwest Arkansas, Medina and his five younger siblings participated in a similar program when he was in elementary school.
"I was one of the first recipients when the backpack program started at my school," said Medina. "I can vividly remember…it would be on a Friday when they would give the backpacks. I didn't feel weird or anything like that because it was such a big blessing. I didn't see it as anything other than that. Both of our parents worked full-time, and being the oldest I wasn't always able to master the art of cooking. There are meals I definitely would have rather fed by siblings, but the backpack meals were such a huge help. They were things that could be done in the microwave and keep us afloat until dinner time came around. It impacted not only me, but my siblings and my family."
Medina attended Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas before transferring to Arkansas Tech. He was named UA-Cossatot's 2017 Academic All Star.
A member of the Dean's List at ATU in multiple semesters, Medina will receive his Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture business during a commencement ceremony at Arkansas Tech on May 11. He will be the first member of his family to earn a bachelor’s degree.
"Here I am, about to graduate, and I know that the backpack program was such an important part," said Medina, who helped deliver food to Crawford Elementary School as part of Greeks Give Back. "When I heard about this opportunity to give back, it got me emotional because I don't know the full situation of what the kids are facing here, but no matter what it is, they will appreciate it. One day they'll be standing here ready to give back. I see myself when I look into those little faces. I remember being in those shoes, being one of the recipients and being an advocate for my family."
Pam Stokes serves as guidance counselor at Crawford Elementary School, which educates approximately 400 students from kindergarten through fourth grade. She said approximately 65 Crawford students participate in the backpack program at the outset of each year.
"I loved getting to meet Eduardo," said Stokes. "That was awesome for me. That is what we hope. That's why we do it. It's wonderful to see him giving back. I could just see his little boy face taking that backpack home. That's what we want for all of our kids. We want them to be able to give back and to know it made a difference."
Medina isn't finished making that difference.
"One day I will be at the forefront of donating to causes like this one," said Medina. "Whatever community I live in, if there's not a program like this one I am going to start one. Backpack programs might start off small, but trust me, they branch off to become something larger than I can fathom."