Ain’t no mountain high enough


For physics Junior Douglas Alexander, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this summer will be one of many immense challenges he has overcome in his life.

Four years ago this week, Alexander was released from a drug rehabilitation facility. Today, he is preparing to make the eight- to nine-day climb around Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa in July. The climb will serve as a fundraiser for physics programs in local New Orleans public high schools.

Through his nonprofit organization, “Climbing Kilimanjaro for the Physics of Tomorrow,” Douglas said he hopes to raise funds for physics equipment such as electronic balances, ballistic pendulums, force tables and resonance tubes for high schools in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes.

Since he began fundraising in December, Douglas has raised enough money to provide equipment for Martin Luther King Jr. High School, McDonough 35 College Preparatory High School and Thomas Jefferson High School. High schools such as Benjamin Franklin, Lusher and Chalmette are next on the list to receive equipment.

According to Alexander, the idea to climb Mount Kilimanjaro came to him about 10 years ago while hiking with friends in Phoenix, Ariz. Though he lost touch with those friends, the idea for the climb stuck with him.

“When I went into recovery a few years ago and came back to school, I wanted to follow back up on that idea,” Alexander said.

“It’s a symbolic trip to me for lots of reasons. I’m finally being able to follow through on something I said I wanted to do a long time ago and put a positive spin on it by helping the schools in the New Orleans area.”

As a high school student, Alexander was always interested in physics, though he admittedly struggled with the subject matter at first.

“What I hope to do is to make the subject of physics a little less intimidating and to grab a few of the students that are maybe in the gray area and, you know, pull them over to where they can see things a little bit more clearly,” Alexander said.

Promptly upon his return from Africa, Alexander will begin delivering the physics equipment to the appropriate schools. Fortunately for Alexander, several of his classmates from the physics department have been very enthusiastic about assisting him with this cause.

One such classmate is physics freshman Riley Mayes.

“I thought it would be interesting to go around to these schools to help these kids learn and give them something for themselves. Hopefully it’ll inspire some people from high schools to actually go into the physics field,” Mayes said.

Along with Alexander, Mayes and a handful of physics students will be delivering and unloading the equipment at the schools. They will then train the physics teachers on how to use the equipment to ensure it will be useful when the 2012-2013 school year begins.

For Alexander, this project is giving back to the community on a much deeper level than simply providing opportunities for physics education in high schools.

“When I was an active drug addict, which was several years of my life, I stole from people that I know and love. I took a lot more from society than I put in, and I feel like if I want to keep moving forward in my life and stay clean that I have to make sure that I keep giving back to society and kind of balance things out,” Alexander said.

Shannon Donaldson can be reached at [email protected]