MACON- Mercer University engineering student Joshua Rubin recently completed the most physically demanding and emotionally rewarding experience of his life.
Over a two-month period, the Chapel Hill, N.C., native rode his bike 3,910 miles from San Francisco, Calif., to Washington, D.C., in a bike ride called "Journey of Hope."
The bike ride was organized by the nonprofit Push America- the exclusive philanthropy of Rubin's fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi. The mission of Push America is to promote a better understanding of people with disabilities.
Rubin was one of 65 college students and Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers to cycle across the country, making stops along the way to serve and visit with people with disabilities. These "friendship visits" were what made the trip worthwhile, according to Rubin, who doesn't consider himself a cyclist.
"Some days we'd bike as much as120 miles. Some days we'd go uphill for 65 miles. I woke up in pain, and I went to bed in pain. But when I saw the faces of the people we were visiting, all of that pain disappeared," he said.
Rubin said seeing the people with disabilities smile was extremely rewarding. He recalled one young girl who suffered Shaken Baby Syndrome, brain damage that resulted from her father vigorously shaking her as a baby. The little girl immediately took to Rubin, and they laughed and played for hours.
On another "friendship visit" he and the other 32 students on his team visited a teenage girl with Down syndrome. "To see her face light up when she had the undivided attention of 32 guys was amazing," Rubin recalled. "That's what I went on that trip for. My mission was to make people smile."
Rubin remains in contact with many of the individuals he met during his bike ride, and he plans to be a part of the "Journey of Hope" next summer. He also plans to spend his spring break for the third year in a row participating in Push Camp, in which he will help renovate camps and build amenities that will enhance the summer camp experience of a person with a disability. And for the second year, Rubin will bike in the shorter Push America ride called "Gear up Florida" in which he'll ride his bike 900 miles from Miami to Tallahassee this summer.
He said he's amazed when he gets letters from some of the people he visited thanking him. "I find it so weird they're thanking me. I got so much more out of visiting them then they can ever imagine," he said. "This trip truly made me aware of what I'm capable of."
Rubin is earning his master's degree in electrical engineering at Mercer School of Engineering. He is the son of Linda Rubin of Chapel Hill, N.C., and Bob Rubin of Pittsboro, N.C.
Named one of the top engineering schools in the Southeast by U.S. News and World Report for the past four years, Mercer University School of Engineering is known for producing graduates ready to work in industry and government. The innovative Mercer School of Engineering curriculum emphasizes teamwork as well as opportunities to gain on-the-job experiences. Mercer engineering graduates are known for their strong communication skills, as Mercer is one of few engineering institutions in the nation to house a Technical Communication Department within the Engineering School.