NEW ORLEANS – You reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro one step at a time.
Every step brings Douglas Alexander closer to his goal of climbing the tallest mountain in Africa and conquering his personal demons.
“When I was active in my addiction, the world that I lived in was very, very small. I existed in a very small space,” said the Loyola University junior.
Alexander says his world opened up four years ago when he found sobriety. While in recovery, he dreamed about a trip that would take him from the lowest point in his life to the top of the world.
“An important part of recovery is learning how to deal with each moment as it comes and accepting that moment for what it is. Those are principles that I plan on applying to my trip to Kilimanjaro,” he said.
He trains for the eight- to nine-day climb by running up and down the stairs at Loyola University.
His trip to Kilimanjaro also gives the physics major a chance to give back and make amends for the years he spent stealing from others to buy drugs.
Alexander says he's paying for the trip himself, but looking for sponsors to buy scientific equipment for New Orleans area high schools. He calls the trip "Climbing Kilimanjaro for the Physics of Tomorrow."
“The goal of the project is to put some fundamental pieces of physics lab equipment out there in high schools, so that the students in physics classes would be able to get a lab experience,” said Alexander.
Lusher High School will be one of the first to receive the equipment, including a new digital scale and ballistic pendulum.
“If the future of medicine, technology is something that you think is valuable, then getting kids excited about science, not just as a subject to be learned, but as a process to learn new things, is extremely important,” said Stephen Collins, a physics teacher at Lusher.
Collins says Alexander's quest is also a lesson to be learned.
“To be honest, I was looking at it and I said, ‘We've got a very clever student who's figured a way to parlay his interest in going to the top of Kilimanjaro into a noteworthy project.’ Obviously, it's a lot more than that.”
Clark High School is also expected to receive "Physics for Tomorrow" equipment. The school's community coordinator says he hopes others follow Alexander's lead.
“I think it is incredibly inspiring. I'm really touched by his story. I'm very impressed,” said Mike Jayes of Clark High.
Alexander says he knows all too well what it's like to struggle in high school.
“When I took physics, I nearly had to drop out of the class because I just didn't get it,” he said. “I felt like everything was going over my head and there were these words and concepts that I just couldn't seem to wrap my head around.”
He hopes to one day go to medical school and treat people with substance abuse.
While his trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro may be symbolic of his fight to overcome addiction, Alexander admits when the climb is over and the summit is reached, the road to recovery continues.
“Being clean and free from drugs is a blessing that's something that needs to be maintained on a daily basis,” he said.
So far, Alexander is about halfway to his goal of raising $10,000. Each high school is expected to receive about $350 in physics equipment.
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