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Physics major completes epic Mount Kilimanjaro climb for charity

December 14, 2012

Loyola University New Orleans physics major Douglas Alexander summited Mount Kilimanjaro climbing more than 19,300 feet this summer to raise more than $5,200 for physics equipment for New Orleans public schools. At the same time he fulfilled a lifelong dream, commemorating his victory over drug addiction. His epic climb to the tallest peak in Africa not only brought a personal victory, it benefitted 10 local high schools.

Alexander made the journey to Africa to follow through with a personal goal—something that was derailed by drug addiction. After Alexander officially quit drugs in April 2008 and paid off his drug debt, he was ready to conquer another challenge—the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.

“It brought a sense of closure to me about a lot of things, being able to follow through with something I say I’m going to do and freedom from drugs,” Alexander said.

Alexander didn’t want to climb the mountain solely for himself. He wanted to share his love of physics with school children. He almost gave up on physics in high school, but a teacher convinced him to stick with it. A few weeks later, the concepts just clicked.

“Struggling with physics is something I can relate to,” Alexander said. “If it’s something we can relate to, we’re even better at helping.”

Equipment such as force tables to visualize force vectors and resonance tubes to visualize the concept of sound waves make physics come alive, according to Alexander. Altogether, he recently donated sets of physics equipment to Lusher Charter School, Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School, Joseph S. Clark High School, Thomas Jefferson High School, Walter L. Cohen High School, Miller-McCoy Academy, Ben Franklin High School, Chalmette High School, East Jefferson High School and Jesuit High School.

Even though donating the equipment was rewarding for Alexander, great satisfaction also came from the trip itself—the journey. It took more than nine days to climb the mountain, and Alexander had to overcome complications from the altitude that made it almost impossible for him to eat. He did things he never dreamed of like scaling an 800-meter cliff wall with no harness. He pressed on when everywhere he looked seemed like an uphill battle.

“A lot of the emotions that I felt on summit night were emotions that I felt when quitting drugs: hopelessness, wanting to give up and fear of what would happen if I did give up,” Alexander said. “This was a challenge, but not as bad quitting drugs.”

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