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Natural Born Leader

After spending the summer walking and hitchhiking across Latin America, trekking through 10 countries over 5,000 miles, it’s no surprise that Saul Flores has become an ambassador of sorts. The 20-year-old undergraduate is juggling his studies in graphic design and marketing while filling his schedule with speaking engagements in front of community groups and student organizations around the Triangle.

His goal is simple, if ambitious. He hopes to bring a measure of compassion and understanding to the ongoing national debate about immigration.

As tough as his journey was, Flores said, it could have been even more difficult had he traveled – as many immigrants do – without a U.S. passport.

“Just to think of these immigrants crossing into the United States with the hopes and dreams and aspirations of creating a better future and having to make this journey without the support that I had, is just something unbelievable,” he said.

Flores is also doing his part to address one of the issues that drives immigrants north. He’s using his marketing skills to sell some of the 20,000 photos he took on the journey; beautiful images of Latin American landscapes, people and cultural sites. And he’s sending the proceeds to an impoverished elementary school in rural Atencingo, Mexico, to improve the educational opportunities available for the town’s poorest children. Flores visited the town last spring on a service project organized by the Caldwell Fellows.

Sharing Images and Reflections

Flores launched his speaking tour two weeks ago at a campus event sponsored by the Department of Multicultural Student Affairs, where he made a 90-minute presentation and accepted the Role Model Leaders Award from CSLEPS, the Center for Student Leadership, Ethics & Public Service. Flores is the first student to receive the award, which has been given annually for 24 years.

Last week, he spoke at the University of North Carolina as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, and this Saturday, Flores will participate as one of nine speakers at the TEDxNCSU event in the ballroom of the Talley Student Center. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. That evening, he headlines the 15th annual Latino Diamante Awards at 6 p.m. at the Durham Marriott Convention Center.

Flores is selling photos of his journey on his Web site, with proceeds going to benefit the elementary school in Atencingo. See our favorite shots. And, yes, we did go through all 20,000 photos.

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