Dariana Gonzalez Aguilar, a senior at East Mecklenburg High, was born in a small agrarian village in Mexico called el Salitre de Aguilares. She and her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was 4 years old. With each visit home, she saw the way her town's rivers became drier and its maize fields lost their green color. Her urge to understand the reasons behind the worsening conditions intensified, giving rise to her passion for environmentalism.
Over time, her concern for the environment turned into action. She began advocating for climate justice, transitioned to a vegan lifestyle, started composting and recycling and, most importantly, participating in political organizations to advocate for comprehensive climate legislation.
Advocating for equity in education also became one of her interests. After becoming a member of GenOne Charlotte, an organization that provides first-generation students with the resources necessary to navigate the education and college application systems, she became more involved in educational advocacy efforts in her community by speaking and writing about the need for more equitable and inclusive curriculums.
Dariana plans to attend Harvard University in the fall to pursue a major in environmental science and public policy. She was awarded the Harvard Faculty Scholarship, IB Schools of North Carolina Wynn Cherry Memorial Scholarship and the Friedland Foundation Scholarship.
Whichever career she chooses, she will contribute to environmental conservation efforts. "At the moment, I find a career in restorative ecology appealing. There is something almost magical about dedicating one's life to repairing ecosystems that have been destroyed as a result of human activity, to returning life to what once seemed barren."
Her grandmother was one of the most influential people in her life. "Her unwavering dedication to advocating for families in need and readiness to empathize with those around her earned the respect of my community in my home country. It was when I witnessed the respect people had towards her that I understood that true recognition stems from service rather than authority -- a realization that fostered my passion for public service and social justice."
"I will always remember the random moments of kindness I received in high school -- the greetings from teachers in the hallways, the smiles from my peers when walking around campus, the good wishes from our cafeteria staff."
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