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Aarin Feliz spreads positivity across the campus of Springfield College

NSO leader, RA, member of the @SCPride_Wrestle team. Aarin Feliz does it all while spreading positivity around campus.By @_helenluacs
Helen Lucas @_helenlucas In the fall, he shouts out cheers during New Student Orientation. In the afternoon, he’s breaking a sweat in the weight room and cheering on his teammates as a member of the wrestling team. Then, he’s focused and actively participating in a meeting for the Student Athlete Leadership Team. After a long day, he goes back to his dorm to create programs and check on his residents as a resident assistant. Between classes, meetings, and responsibilities, senior Aarin Feliz is constantly weaving back and forth across campus. But no matter where he’s headed, the New Jersey native carries a distinct sense of optimism and selflessness. At any given time, faculty and students alike can distinguish his voice, as he often goes out of his way to ask those around him, “What made you smile today?” “I don’t like to say I’m busy, I like to say I’m productive,” Feliz said. “It changes the way you think. When you hear ‘busy’ you think of something negative. When you hear ‘productive’ you think of something positive.” Feliz credits each club he’s been apart of to shaping his character. Together, they have helped him with time management, planning, and organization, but most importantly, they have allowed him to do what he loves: provide service to others. “I love the New Student Orientation program overall. You get to be that first helping hand with the transition of people coming to college. At the same time, you can have that little influence,” he said. “You know that saying, ‘Leave a place better than you found it’? I like to do that with people.” Feliz helping his peers on campus is just the beginning. The physical/health education major has spent the fall semester shaping and teaching young students at Blueberry Hill Elementary school in Longmeadow. Thus far, the experience has been extremely eye-opening. “The way they look at you, [it’s] as if you’re a superhero,” he said. “They give you their full attention. You have your great kids and your not so great kids, but you try and influence your not such great kids, because maybe there is something going on at home you don’t know about.” While teaching at the elementary school, Feliz has seen the innocence of young students first hand. As the kids jogged around the gym, the teacher informed one of his students that their shoe was untied and they had to tie it. The child responded saying that they didn’t know how to tie their shoe. Immediately, a little girl in the class went up and tied the other child’s shoe, then went back to jogging. She wasn’t asked. She didn’t expect a “thank you.” She did it out of the kindness of her heart. “You can’t teach someone that. Little kids will do those things, because they are not given stereotypes,” Feliz stressed. Being one of only a few male teachers in the school, Feliz has become a role model to his students. “These kids run up to me, they hug me, they hold my hand, because they may not have a male role model, [or] there is no male figure around, and I never thought about that until I got there,” he said. Prior to being at the elementary school, Feliz taught at Chicopee Comprehensive High School. While teaching at the high school level, the NSO leader integrated Spanish words into his lessons, not only to make kids who speak Spanish feel more welcome, but to teach those who don’t something new. “Even if trying to learn it feels silly and you don’t understand it and it’s uncomfortable, you are getting comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he said. In his time at the elementary school and high school, Feliz has learned a lot, not only from the kids, but the other physical education teachers as well. “My cooperative teacher at the high school said, ‘If they win, it’s on them. If they lose, it’s on you,” explained Feliz. Although he loves teaching, physical education wasn’t Feliz’s original plan. In his senior year of high school, Feliz thought he was going to go to college for business. After his principal pointed out his love for teaching and helping kids, he decided to go to school for education. The wrestler faced a new question. What to teach? “[Although] I was good at them, I never wanted to do anything with science, reading, or math. They didn’t interest me,” said Feliz. “I love moving around, I love sports, I love getting to help people on a deeper level, and what subject would be able to do that? It was PE.” Feliz embodies everything Springfield College stands for, but he almost didn’t come to Alden Street. The wrestler thought he would be attending Coe College in Iowa, 16 hours from his home in New Jersey. After realizing that he didn’t want to be that far, Feliz continued the search until he found East Stroudsburg College in Pennsylvania. After getting accepted to the school, nothing came of it athletically, so the search continued. While everything was pointing at Springfield College, Feliz was still unsure. At the time, his wrestling coach and physical education teacher were both Springfield alumni. But it wasn’t until April of his senior year, that he even applied to Springfield College, and after doing an overnight visit, Feliz realized he could see himself here. He’s been positively impacting those around him, both on campus and in the community, ever since. Photo courtesy of Aarin Feliz

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