Michael Estrada, Marshall ’79, a Los Angeles municipal law
attorney, would never have imagined himself shovel in hand
and knee-deep in a ditch, high in the mountains of Appalachia,
working with those half his age to help West Virginians in need.
But sometimes life takes you where you least expect it.
It all started when the alumnus was diagnosed with throat
cancer. “It made me look at all the things that affected my life,
and UC San Diego was an important one,” he says.
While undergoing treatment, Estrada read an issue of Triton
featuring an article on a fellow alumnus who supports the
university’s Alternative Breaks program. The student-run,
student-led program gives volunteers the opportunity to
embark on national and international service-learning trips as
a meaningful way to give back to society. Participants engage
with a wide range of community-based nonprofit groups and
help address social justice issues ranging from poverty to
environmental education to women’s empowerment.
“For years, I’d been looking for something to reconnect with at
UC San Diego,” Estrada recalls. “Alternative Breaks sounded
interesting, and I recognized that it was time to start doing things
I had put off.”
With his cancer ultimately defeated, Estrada engaged with
the program and was quickly inspired by the students he
met. “It was the notion of service that attracted me,” he says.
“I was overwhelmed by the esprit de corps—the enthusiasm of
the students for the program and the projects.”
After three years of providing support to the program, Estrada
recently established the Michael Estrada Alternative Breaks
Scholarship Endowment with a gift of $50,000 to help more
students in need participate in the program. He also designated
the newly established endowment as a beneficiary of his estate.
But the story doesn’t end there.