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AJ

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My life has been in alternating states of privilege since my birth. I was born into a middle class family with enough finances to live modestly, yet with grandparents that knew how to spoil me rotten; that is until I reached the age of six. In 2002 my mother filed for divorce against my father for domestic and child abuse. Child Protective Services took my three siblings and me away from our family and placed us into Orangewood Foundation, a facility for foster youth. As a mere preschooler, I had no idea what that would entail for us.
After the divorce finalized and our mother finally regained full custody she was allowed to move in with our grandparents who had since been our guardians after we were released from the foster care establishment. We were finally allowed to be a family again outside of a visiting room, yet nothing felt the same. After such traumatic events my family struggled to regain our footing in this rat race that we call life, or at least thats how my mother described it. Placed on food stamps and disability, my mother did her best to raise four children with the help of two grandparents that had to come out of retirement to help support the family.
Life is arduous and unfair; a lesson I learned from a young age. Due to the circumstances my mothers time was spent mostly keeping the family functioning, which meant there was not always the most amount of time for parenting, especially when she was exhausted and had four young children with endless amounts of energy and need for attention. I understood that sometimes even though I wanted or even needed my mother, my siblings needed her more, and I learned how to better myself such that my mother would have one less thing to worry about at the end of the day.
As I grew older and excelled in my studies, I realized I enjoyed two subjects more than the others, French and physics. I started in French 1 my freshman year and continued it throughout high school. My French professor Mme. Sloan encouraged me to keep with the language even after high school, and as a reward for staying with the French program she even planned a trip to Paris for my classmates and me during Spring break our senior year. Even after I was accepted into UCI as physics major, I kept my French skills up with a minor. As for my passion for physics, it started with a man by the name of Kevin Dwyer. I walked into honors physics my junior year and was as stunned as a deer in headlights from most of the physical intricacies of the world so clearly explained. To quote my university classical mechanics professor, It was almost as if I had a religious revelation when I first learned about physics. I threw myself into the work and loved every second of it and I am ever grateful that I had found a teacher that was able to captivate me. Before taking his class, I was unsure of what I wanted to study at University. After taking his AP physics class my senior year, I knew with unwavering certainty, I was going to study physics at UCI.
I started at UCI in the summer session right before fall quarter starts. UCI has a program, called Summer Start, which is meant to bridge the gap between high school and college life. I was a part of Summer Bridge, a subdivision of the summer start program for low-income, first generation college students. Funnily enough, I would move into my dorm exactly on my eighteenth birthday, which meant my mother would be sending her son off to college the day he came of legal age. Given our family history it was tough for everyone, including myself. Although we were not able to have our traditional family birthday dinner on my birthday, we celebrated the day before to make the most of my last night spent at home. We set out the next day in our mini van loaded with all things collegiate all while choking back tears. This was the first time I would truly be on my own since I was in foster care and my mother knew that she could no longer shelter me from the world. I was welcomed into the program with open arms; as it turns out there are many people from all walks of life that have experienced excessive adversity and we were all looking for support and found it in each other. The Summer Bridge program made transitioning to university life a breeze, so much though that I could not wait to give back to the community that had given so much to me. I applied to be a discussion leader for the same University Studies class so that I might be able to pass on the knowledge that had been bestowed upon me. I received the position for that summer and the summer after I returned from studying abroad. This community has allowed me to reach out for help in times of need, but has also allowed me to offer advice and support to fellow students going through similar struggles.
Fast forward a few years and I am in my third year of university and probably my biggest. My second year was spent planning for my third year, as I was bound and determined to study abroad in New Zealand since the day I found it possible. There are a myriad of reasons I chose New Zealand, but the most simple and greatest of them all was because I admired the culture and the landscape and I wanted to experience what life was like for them. As a part of applying to the program I needed to do research on my host country and apply to scholarships. Fortunately enough I was awarded the STEAM scholarship for students studying abroad as a STEM or Arts major, the only male student out of the six students selected. I went on to study at the University of Auckland and experienced life in ways I never thought possible. I roomed with Kiwis (not the fruit or bird), met travelers from around the world, jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, and made the memories of a lifetime. And as clich as it sounds, I found myself. I found myself surrounded by culture of people that invigorated the hope that I still have in humanity. I was fortunate enough to find a haven that re-awaked the inspiration to keep my dream alive that had started to fade with the passing years. I left a piece of my heart in Aotearoa; in the friends and memories we shared and in my footsteps left in the jagged earth.
Studying abroad was more than just courses being checked off on list for my diploma, it was the recognition of what I wanted to do with my life. I want to eventually start my own company and learn how to run a business so that I can share my ideas and potential inventions with the world. I want to sing my heart out regardless of whos listening. I want to use my music to teach some of the lessons Ive learned and to inspire others to chase their dreams. I want my music to ring loud in the ears of other foster children around the world so that they might have the courage to keep pushing forward despite the obstacles they might face. Furthermore, I strive to demonstrate kindness and compassion to anyone who would have it even if we are nothing more than strangers; to instill a hope in people who seem to have lost faith in humanity and show them understanding. To quote Mahatma Gandhi, I strive to be the change I wish to see in the world.

AJ’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: University of California-Irvine - Bachelor of Science, Physics

Hobbies

Archery, Longboarding, Cycling, Hiking/Backpacking, Video-games/Tech

Tutoring Subjects

Algebra

Algebra 2

AP Physics 1

AP Physics 2

College Physics

Conversational French

Drum and Percussion

Elementary School Math

French

French 2

French 3

French 4

High School Physics

Languages

Math

Middle School Math

Music

Physics

Pre-Algebra

Science