“My dad worked for Rhythm and Blooms,” says Alex Ruiz, who was born in Eugene, two months before his parents moved back to their hometown of Santiago Apóstol in Oaxaca, Mexico. “They wanted me to be a U.S. citizen.” Ruiz returned to Oregon at age 11, lived with his older brother Lorenso and began sixth grade at Cal Young Middle School. “I didn’t know English,” he says. “It was challenging.” He took ELL classes and learned the language, but got into trouble with friends who were experimenting with drugs. After eighth grade, his brother sent him back to Mexico. “I saw how small the house was,” he says, “two rooms. I saw how hard my parents worked. It made me reflect.”
He worked in construction for two years, helped four younger sisters with schoolwork, then returned for high school at South Eugene. “I was more serious than other kids,” says Ruiz, who will graduate in June with an almost 4.0 average. He is co-president of the school’s Latino Student Union and winner of a $10,000 “Beat the Odds” scholarship from Stand for Children Oregon. During spring vacation, Ruiz puts in volunteer hours at FOOD for Lane County’s Youth Farm in Springfield, where he worked for pay last summer on its crew of low-income teens. The farm supplies the FFLC food bank and also a 65-member CSA program. It’s one of 15 CSA farms preparing for the 16th annual That’s My Farmer Celebration from 6 to 8 pm Tuesday, April 14, at the First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St. in Eugene. TMF is a meeting place for farmers and consumers, and a fundraiser to benefit low-income CSA subscribers.