Alejandro "Alex" Flores, 15, has his eye on a goal most adults would consider challenging.
He hopes to spend his sophomore year of high school in France. To fulfill his dream, Flores must raise $12,000 to cover his expenses for the 2013-14 school year.
A freshman at Rifle High School, Flores is the son of Gustavo and Soccoro Flores, who emigrated from Mexico with his two older sisters, Brenda and Anne. Flores was born in Glenwood Springs. His family is supportive of his goal.
"My dad is in construction and my mom works at the senior center in the cafeteria," Flores said. "My parents think it's a great opportunity. Rifle is really a great school, but the study abroad will broaden my education and give me some opportunities my sisters didn't have."
Last year, Flores submitted an application to volunteer in India with Lifeworks International, a group that offers community service-based summer programs for teens. The people at Lifeworks were so impressed with his application, they recommended Flores to their partner organization, the Council on International Educational Exchange. That nonprofit organization provides opportunities for studying abroad in more than 40 countries around the world.
"I was given the opportunity to go to Brazil, Spain or France," Flores said. "From a very young age, I've wanted to go to France and that's where I've been accepted to. The application process is done, the only thing left is the fundraising part."
Flores first wanted to go to France when he saw "The Nutcracker" ballet performed in Aspen when he was 6 years old.
"I remember there were boys dancing. It seemed weird to me, but I was fascinated by it, and did some research, and I decided I needed to go to France to be a dancer," Flores explained.
Since then, he realized dance isn't limited to any one country. Flores has been dancing with a local studio for years and plays piano and ukulele. He's also involved in drama, plays clarinet in band, sings tenor in choir, and is part of the Destination Imagination team that made it to the global finals last year. In addition, he is the youth involvement chair for the annual Relay For Life run in Rifle.
"I'm in charge of the committee that gets kids involved and makes it [Relay For Life] more family-oriented and gets publicity into the schools," Flores added.
He also volunteers at Grand River Hospital in the radiology department and at the E. Dene Moore Care Center where he helps "keep the seniors comfortable."
"I was debating going into medicine, and I thought I would try the hospital environment and see what it is like," Flores explained. "I'm thinking about [going into] psychology, hoping to study medical psychiatry and become a medical doctor for the foreign service."
So far, Flores has paid the $500 application fee, "which kind of depleted my savings," he said.
"I've been having bake sales and small fundraising events," he said. "The total amount I have to raise is $12,000 by May 15. I have about $11,000 left to raise."
The cost covers his travel to and from France, traveler's insurance and room and board with a host family for the school year. If all goes well, he'll leave Rifle this August and return in June 2014. He won't be allowed to visit the U.S., and people from the U.S. are not allowed to visit him.
"It's very immersive," Flores said. "That's the goal of the program."
In the meantime, he's working hard to raise the needed funds, soliciting donations from local businesses and individuals and planning some larger fundraisers.
"I've been talking with the school about hosting a dinner theater and a service auction, all volunteer," Flores stated. "The principal is trying to see if their policy will allow that kind of program at the school. I've also contacted the Vaudeville Review about doing a show."
Laura Oysty, the choir director at Rifle Middle School, has offered to hold a Zumba-thon to help raise funds, he added.
Flores can be contacted via email at Alex.firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell phone at (970) 948-0638.