NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Six days after receiving his degree from Rutgers University, Alexander Lopez-Perez on Saturday will be on the move, starting a bicycle trip to Florida, but it is not a vacation at the end of the school year.
Lopez-Perez and four other university students are making the trip in a fund-raising effort to help homeless youths.
“This is very important The cause is homelessness in adolescence. It’s a very invisible issue. Most people don’t even see it,” said the 22-year-old New Brunswick resident.
He and there other students - Neeharika Thuravil, 19 of Princeton, Max Wang, 19 of Leona, Sakib Jalal, 21, of Edison, and Hay Hope, 23, of Brandon Oregon - are raising funds for Visions and Pathways based in Bridgewater.
Since 1970, the non-profit agency has assisted youths from age 13 to 21 who are at-risk, homeless, abused or neglected. The agency has residential and not-residential programs, and now operates in several counties.
Efforts such as the Rutgers students’ bicycle trip are "extremely important," said Jennifer Amaya, director of outreach and prevention for Visions and Pathway.
“The group that is going on this trip, it’s huge,” Amaya said of the bicycling project.
Lopez-Perez, who graduated with a degree in education and English, and is enrolled in a graduate education program, has mentored youths at a shelter in Monroe.
The Rutgers students began planning the 2,000-mile last year, and have raised about $10,000. Their goal is $30,000. They have been working with The Dream Project New Jersey, an agency that organizes adventure fund-raisers. The five students will ride bicycles that were donated for the trip.
On Saturday, the students will start from Bucceluch Park in New Brunswick with a send off that will include support from members of the Central Jersey Bicycle Club.
Students have planned a 30-day to Miami, but they will stop at seven non-profit agencies along the way to volunteer in community programs.