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Aidan Wood - 2021 Co-Salutatorian

Valley Oaks Charter School Graduate

Close your eyes and picture yourself at age 17, leaving your family and friends behind to live in a foreign country and attempt to speak in a foreign language for a full academic year. And during a pandemic, no less! This is what Aidan Wood, Salutatorian at Valley Oaks Charter School, did in Denmark last year as a Rotary Youth Exchange student.

Having been homeschooled since kindergarten, Aidan first enrolled at Valley Oaks in the 7th grade. Curious and diligent, Aidan learned early on how to stay focused and get things done. He feels that learning to manage his time was an important lesson he learned during his time at VOCS. As someone with high personal standards, Aidan learned to find time for both academic responsibilities and personal interests.

Aidan was one of three students selected by Valley Oaks teachers to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) during his sophomore year. This is an intensive training put on by the Rotary Club where select students learn leadership skills in an active, social environment. Assisted by what he learned at RYLA, Aidan helped found the Interact Club chapter at VOCS. It was also at RYLA where Aidan met the single most influential person in his life, Mrs. Trujillo. She introduced Aidan to the Rotary International Global exchange program and facilitated his placement as an exchange student in Aalborg, Denmark from August 2019 to May 2020. It was there that Aidan attended Aalborg Katedralskole, a Danish high school. Aidan also participated in the Far Eastern Federal University of Russia (FEFU) Global Spring School, studying international relations, peace and UN sustainable goal development. Aidan's exchange student experience helped him gain a completely different perspective on the world.

Aidan has numerous interests. During his year in Denmark, he became fascinated with foreign languages and the ways in which communication varies from country to country. By the end of his exchange, Aidan became conversationally fluent in Danish and is now learning German and French on his own. During the pandemic, Aidan also picked up personal fitness as a hobby and completed an educational program through the National Academy of Sports Medicine that qualifies him to be a personal trainer. Additionally, Aidan was awarded the Top Chemistry award during his Junior year.

Aidan's experience as a foreign exchange student has changed him forever. He is also proud of his role in establishing Valley Oak's Interact Club and providing leadership as the club president. Aidan would like to thank his mom for always being a source of guidance and inspiration to help him reach his goals. After graduation, Aidan plans on attending the University of California, Santa Barbara to study Linguistics.