Posted on May 1st in General

I AM PTK: Michael Aguilar

As a child, Michael Aguilar’s father frequently took him and his siblings to the library at Lone Star College-CyFair in Texas. Despite dropping out of high school and becoming a parent as a teenager, Michael’s father understood the impact reading can have on children.

In May, Michael will come full circle, graduating from LSC-CyFair as a decorated scholarship recipient bound for Emory University this fall. It’s something he never could have imagined years earlier.

“Ultimately, I see the completion of my education as a way to thank my father for the tremendous sacrifices he made while raising my family,” he said.

Michael was among 53 two-year college students honored by Phi Theta Kappa on April 30 at its annual President’s Breakfast, held during the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) annual conference in Dallas, Texas. He was recognized as a member of the 2018 All-USA Academic Team, and he addressed attendees as the 2018 Dr. David Pierce Scholar. Watch his speech here.

Michael is also a Phi Theta Kappa Guistwhite Scholar and a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholar.

“These scholarships completely validate three years of academics, extracurricular activities, and working both full-time and part-time jobs to make sure I was financially stable,” he said. “I often felt like I couldn’t handle the stress of balancing each activity, but now I look back and see that it was all worth it.

“I have become a better student and a stronger individual through Phi Theta Kappa.”

By the time Michael was 18, he had lived in 16 different homes. This instability led him to act out — in middle and high school, he was suspended 15 times for bad behavior and ended up in a disciplinary school. He watched friends struggle with the juvenile justice system and found himself caught in the same school-to-prison pipeline.

His life completely changed, though, when he enrolled at LSC-CyFair. He found a support system at the college and through his PTK chapter that gave him confidence and inspired him to give back.

Michael led his chapter in its 2016 Honors in Action Project, “Pens, Not Penitentiaries: An Examination of the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” through which more than 60 PTK members mentored 400 at-risk high school students at the same disciplinary school he had previously attended. The Beta Lambda Mu Chapter was named PTK’s Most Distinguished Chapter in 2017.

He also worked with his chapter to revitalize the campus’ food pantry, which was especially important after Hurricane Harvey struck in 2017. They collected more than 1,000 items to restock the pantry and designated it as the honors college service project, providing a constant stream of volunteers.

After serving as a chapter officer, Michael was elected president of the Texas Region.

“I believe I truly came into my own in this role,” he said. “I’ve discovered valuable leadership lessons that I will take into the future.

“Although I did not know it in the beginning, I joined Phi Theta Kappa because I wanted to develop into a leader.”

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