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Kinesiology Alumnus Volunteering across the U.S.

July 27, 2015

Cooper Ehlers with two children, one on his shoulders.After graduating from Cal Poly and before plunging into a medical school program, Cooper Ehlers (B.S., Kinesiology, 2015) decided he wanted to give back to the community — in all 48 contiguous states. Ehlers plans to volunteer with local nonprofits in every state except Hawaii and Alaska.

“This is something that I’ve been working on for quite a while now,” Ehlers said.

He began planning the road trip in March of this year, but the idea was sparked nearly five years ago after a conversation with his father.

“We were joking and talking about an awesome dream trip,” he said. “This past year I decided to look into it and found that it was more and more possible to do. Now I’m actually doing it.”

Ehlers, a former Interfraternity Council vice president and past executive board member of the Delta Chi fraternity, isn’t a stranger to volunteer work. And, he says the lessons he learned while at Cal Poly have served him well on his road trip.

“While at Cal Poly, I learned the ability to relate to people of very different backgrounds,” he said. “This makes it much easier to relate to the various people you meet across the United States.”

By late July, Ehlers had finished volunteering in North Dakota, the fifth stop on his trip, and was headed to Minnesota with plans to work with Habitat for Humanity.

Despite living out of his car, eating only bagels and peanut butter for most meals, and not having many people to talk to for long stretches of time, Ehlers says the trip is worth the sacrifices.

“I hope to make some sort of difference. I don’t think that on my own it will be too significant, but maybe I’ll be able to raise money or bring large groups of volunteers out to accomplish something significant,” he said.

Ehlers has even started his own blog, gapyearvagabond.com, to document his travel and volunteer efforts across the country.

“Maybe my story will help encourage others to volunteer in their communities,” he said.

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