18 Under 18 Highlight: AJ Aguilar
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In our Junior Achievement 18 Under 18 recipients series, we’re next highlighting Anthony (AJ) Aguilar. His environmental efforts have helped shape his local community and his medical research could have a global impact. Read on the hear why he was selected as an inaugural Junior Achievement 18 Under 18!
Anthony (AJ) Aguilar, Cienega High School, Vail, 18 years old
AJ might be a senior but he’s already been published in a scholarly journal. His work at the University of Arizona helped to manipulate the DNA of a mosquito so that it wouldn’t transfer to humans.
But AJ’s life isn’t only about science. He likes to find commonality among seemingly different groups.
“A big part of what I like to do is bring things together that aren’t normally together,” he said. “I like science, but I’m also extroverted. I’m a people person. I like the entrepreneurial aspect of things. And I’ve realized that science is more effective when it’s communicated. That’s why outreach is important.”AJ is involved in a variety of leadership activities at Cienega – from the student council to the Green Team, an environmental activism/science/community service group.
What do you want to be doing in 10 years? I hope to be out of grad school or med school at that point. I do want to pursue higher education and part of the reason for that is my family. Education is a big deal in my family, despite not everyone having degrees. I don’t ever want to lose touch with the portion of me that gives back. That’s ultimately why you’re doing what you’re doing in life.
Who’s your biggest inspiration? I find myself thinking back to a lot is my great uncle Raul Castro, who was the governor of Arizona (1975-1977). He was the first Hispanic governor in the United States. Being able to overcome the adversity and prejudice he did, and to become successful, that’s a huge inspiration. And even at the age of 90, he was so articulate. I hope to see myself like that one day, at that age, still caring so deeply for the things I did when I was young.
What’s the best advice you’ve received? Something that’s stuck with me is something I learned at a mentorship program. You can only see further by standing on the shoulders of giants. It’s important to remember that those who helped get you where you are didn’t have to do that for you.