Fernando Cutz, 24, wants high school students in the impoverished Arkansas Delta to realize that grand opportunities exist beyond their poor small towns.
The first student body president at the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, Mr. Cutz has already worked on several major projects, including one for malaria prevention in Tanzania. But it's the one he and two other classmates began in their free time that he hopes will ignite minority children to seek higher education.
"Changing one person's life can affect a whole community," Cutz says.
Born in Brazil, Cutz moved to Florida with his family when he was 6. He attended Washington University in St. Louis, serving as the student body president. In his senior year, Cutz organized a high-profile protest against a Chicago bar that discriminated against his African-American classmates. The students won.
In the Delta, Cutz began the one-on-one mentoring program with students at Lee High School in Marianna, Ark., to explain college life and the availability of financial aid and scholarships. The program became so successful that it grew to include entire classes – and even parents – wanting to hear the message. Other schools soon called, and Cutz and classmates now have three schools that they visit. Earlier this year, Cutz helped one student land an all-expenses-paid education at his alma mater in St. Louis.
"It's a far drive [to the Delta], and no one is paying our gas," says Cutz, who wants to serve as a diplomat after graduation. "But none of us has had a second thought about this project."
– Suzi Parker, Little Rock, Ark.
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