- Route: Ozarks
- Ride Year: 2017
- Hometown: San Antonio
- School Year: Senior
- Major: Journalism
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is Mikaela Casas, though I was born in the small town of Anniston, Alabama, I have called San Antonio my home for the last 15 years. I come from a long line of eccentric and tight-knit Hispanics who have made Texas their home. My mom, originally from Puerto Rico, worked hard to raise my sister and I while working and attending school. My father and grandparents have always encouraged me to follow my heart, and in turn my dreams. I was in choir for 10 years and still can’t sight read very well. I enjoy making movie references that no one ever understands and perusing local Austin record and video stores.
At UT, I am a Journalism major with a minor in Government. I specialize in video journalism, telling stories through videography instead of words. In addition to Texas 4000, I serve as the Philanthropy officer for Texas Spirits, I am involved in Communication Council, and remain involved in the cooperative housing movement as a member and house officer for my co op. I have also had the opportunity to work for UT student publications such as ORANGE Magazine, where I served as the multimedia director. In the future, I hope to attend law school and continue non-profit work.
Why I Ride
First, I ride for my cousin Anthony Torres. In January of 1996, at age five, Anthony died from Glioblastoma. His was a rare form of brain cancer that coated his meninges. At that time, there was little research about this form of cancer and so Anthony’s doctors struggled in vain to keep him alive. Many of the memories I have of Anthony are secondhand; memories of how strong he was in the hospital, or how he never lost his smile even in the end. “He was an angel,” my grandmother would say, showing my sister and I pictures of him, struggling to keep his memory alive. Cancer spreads not only in the body of the patient. It spreads emotionally and mentally to those who love them.
I also ride for anyone who has struggled with mental illness. I ride for those who feel they have no support or nowhere to turn. I ride to end the stigma each and every one of us has experienced. As a Journalism major I have had the opportunity to step into people’s lives in order to tell their stories, to give a voice to those who feel they have none. I ride to give us a voice. I ride for Dakota, one of the strongest people I know, who has remained my rock throughout my own experience with mental illness.
I do not imagine riding a bike from Texas to Alaska will be easy. There will be struggle, both physical and emotional. But overcoming difficult times on the journey will help me grow as a person and develop a deeper sense of empathy with people whose struggle with cancer and mental illness is an inescapable reality every day of their lives. I ride to raise the awareness now that could have saved my cousin twenty years ago, but most of all, I ride for you.