by Nina M. Riccio
When joel burgos was six, his pet goldfish died. Little Joel mourned in his own way; he and his mother dissected it. “My mom is a nurse, and she’s always had a big influence on me,” he explained. Her emergency room stories, plus a terrific biology teacher in his Berlin, Conn., high school, solidified his decision to follow a career in healthcare.
So when Burgos began looking at colleges, he knew he wanted one with a strong science department and solid advising. “Corny as it sounds, I came to Fairfield a few times and it just felt right. Everything just clicked,” he remembered.
Burgos has since decided to become a physician’s assistant. He’s currently finishing up the prerequisites he needs and will be working as an EMT next year to save money for his graduate studies. Once a month, he travels back home to do a couple of shifts at his job in patient transport at the local hospital.
In his four years at Fairfield, Burgos has taken advantage of everything the University has to offer, including a service trip to New Orleans with Green Campus Initiatives, which aims to build houses with energy efficient materials. He has received the Christopher B. Love Academic Achievement Award for Minority Students, and has been inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. He tutors freshmen in chemistry, makes regular appearances on the Dean’s List, and even manages to organize games of pick-up volleyball at the beach, where he’s now living in a house with four other seniors.
Perhaps most compelling of all, he has been a mentor for Cura Personalis, the mentoring program for first year students of color and first generation college students.
“Coming in as a freshman is scary enough, but if you can’t find anyone to identify with, it can be a barrier to your ability to ever become comfortable on campus. I’m half Puerto Rican and the first in my family to go to college,” he said, “so I can relate to what these kids are going through. Working with them was an awesome experience.”
Burgos might never have had that experience if it hadn’t been for the generosity of alumni who have provided the scholarship money he needed to attend a school like Fairfield. One such scholarship is the Margaret, Marjorie, and James Campbell Scholarship, funded by Chris Campbell ’74, and earmarked for minority students. The scholarship is named for Campbell’s parents and a cherished older sister, Margaret, who was killed by a drunk driver when she was just 15.
Describing himself as a “recycled hippie,” Campbell explained why he set up the scholarship.
“I attended Fairfield during a very tumultuous time, and loved its academic rigor with no question of limits. The Jesuit mission is real world, not ivory tower,” he said. “But the one thing that was lacking when I was on campus was diversity, so I told (then President) Fr. Kelley that that’s where I would put my efforts.” Besides establishing the scholarship, Campbell has made good on that promise in other ways, serving for years on the Fairfield Awards Dinner Committee, which raises scholarship money specifically for AHANA students.
Burgos has received the Campbell scholarship since his freshman year. “My parents support me as much as they can, and tell me often that they are proud of me,” he said. “Every dollar I’ve been given has been so important.”