Aaron grew up as part of the Navajo Nation and was generally content with his life on the reservation. But he knew he wouldn't make it to college if he didn't work hard and take charge of his education early on.
The struggles Aaron observed on the reservation influenced his attitude toward life. "Growing up on the reservation, you see a lot ... and you kind of have to grow up fast and decide. ... And I decided that I really wanted to do something and to really make something of myself."
While in middle school, Aaron received letters from college-prep high schools. He felt that going to one of them would help him reach his goals. He faced the difficult decision of leaving the reservation to attend a boarding school more than 2,500 miles away. Making a choice like that while only in middle school can be scary, but with his mom's support, Aaron knew it was the right one for him.
Such a big move meant that Aaron had difficult adjustments to make. But he feels that the experience strengthened him and made him much more culturally aware. Referring to his experiences with both white and Native American cultures, he says, "I've been an observer of these two worlds. ... You realize how unique and special [each] is. It's helped me appreciate life in general much more."
After the experience of living so far away, Aaron wanted to attend college in his home state. On campus, he's involved in Native American organizations as a way of connecting with his culture and other Native Americans. He founded a local chapter of AISES, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and is its president. "It's easy to get involved — first identify your interests and then go out. There's a group for everything."
One of the things Aaron likes most about being in college is the way people getting a higher education are respected by Navajo elders, "which is huge in Native American culture." The elders hope that Navajo college graduates will help their community in the future.
Aaron also hopes to inspire his little brothers. "I kind of give them the mindset that ... you're going to have a lot of choices. ... You can take the step toward higher education and do things for yourself to live in abundance and have a better life. ... I tell them it's all up to them."