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  • By Johanna Salinas

Before I die

During the University of Guam’s Charter Day, based on past precedent, one would expect to find vendors selling sugary fried foods and vibrant Chinese toys. And so it was this year, and many on the campus for the event embraced the featured games and music that were offered.

But two large chalkboards stood sternly by, offering a rather different message. “Before I die” was chalked on the boards and below, the hopes, dreams and goals of visitors were scribbled. Professor Vincent Borja’s business students were inspired to set up the chalkboards after watching Candy Chang’s National Public Radio TED Talk “Before I Die.” Chang’s video encouraged communities to turn abandoned spaces into venues for meaningful discussions. The Before I Die project rejects the idea that walls represent division within society.

Business students Keith Santos and Zane Antonio at the wall. Photos by Johanna Salinas

On any other day, UOG’s School of Business, would be a serene place for studying or drinking matcha, but this chalk board wall drew curious crowds to a usually quiet spot. Keith Santos, a BA-180 student, was surprised by the great turnout his wall has invited. “I think that everyone needs to appreciate what they want to do before they die. Before I die, I want to open a business in the future—a very successful business. The wall is very great—both walls look great. Many people have come up and wrote what they wish to do before they die.”

While Charter Day is meant to be a carefree celebration away from the usual academic stresses, the Before I Die wall had people reflecting upon the future. Mason Pablo of the BA-180 class was very proud of the project. “The wall has gotten a really good turnout. One dream on the wall that I think is really big is that someone wrote they wanted to be governor.” As a dreamer himself, Pablo shared what he wants to do before he dies. “I wrote that I want to travel the world and explore different places.”

The wall was touched by a wide range of visitors—from high school students to passing professors to young lovers.

Zane Antonio, another BA-180 student, felt enlightened by the project. “Different things can happen in life to keep you from your dreams. Life is really short. It’s good to set yourself up in life so you’re prepared, and you have a plan to follow.” Antonio has many goals in his life and wants to be prepared for whatever obstacles the world creates. “Before I die, I want to own my own home. I have my own land and I’d like to build a house there one day,”Antonio said. “It’s not my end goal in life, but one of the big things I want to do before I die. Something that really inspired me on the wall was someone wrote they had to find love and that’s something I want to do too. I don’t want to experience my life alone—that’s really scary to think about.”

Despite being a successful man, Professor Borja hasn’t finished his own dreaming. “I want to run a marathon in each state—so run 50 marathons.” Borja is proud of the impact and discussions his students created through the Before I Die wall. “One of the workers came through the building and saw the wall. She contemplated for a second then asked if it was ok to write. So she wrote that she wants to see all her grandchildren before she dies. She has eleven grandchildren. It was very heartfelt, because we don’t think about the big things that mean a lot to us that we want to do before we die. That’s the kind of impact we want to make with the community here.”

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