While growing up in Honduras, NOVA-Annandale Student Life Office Manager Rommel Aguilar always knew he wanted to pursue a college education.
English as his second language, Aguilar graduated from NOVA and became the first and only person in his immediate family to earn a college degree. His positive experiences and involvement at NOVA encouraged him to work at his alma mater.
“NOVA gave me the opportunity to find my dream job,” he exclaimed. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be mentored by so many faculty, staff and likeminded individuals who have helped with my growth and development. NOVA allowed me to create a platform to express interests that truly matter to me; such as social justice, equality and providing educational opportunities for all students.”
Aguilar was raised by his grandparents in El Estero, a small impoverished village in Honduras after his parents divorced. In an effort to seek better opportunities for her family, Aguilar’s mother migrated to the U.S. when he was five-years-old. At 16, he moved to Virginia to reunite with his mother and other family members. Initially, starting school in a new country became a challenge for him due to language barriers and cultural differences. However, he persevered and in only three years, he graduated from Garfield High School in Woodbridge as a Presidential Scholar in 2007.
“Although I was academically ready to attend college after high school, I wasn’t financially or mentally ready since I was still adjusting to the educational system in the United States,” Aguilar said. “I did my research and decided to attend NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus in the fall. To pay for my first-semester tuition, I worked during the summer with Prince William County Schools as a teacher assistant for their ESL program.”
After graduating from NOVA in 2010 with an associate degree in Business Administration, he transferred to James Madison University (JMU) to obtain a bachelor’s degree in International Business with a concentration in Marketing.
While attending JMU, Aguilar was involved in many community outreach and civic leadership organizations. In spring 2011, he joined the Alpha Omicron Chapter of La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc., a community service based fraternal organization that works to increase educational opportunities for underrepresented groups at colleges and universities across the nation. He was also involved with the Latino Student Alliance, Circle K, and was the founder of the Social Justice League to promote awareness on social injustice issues.
In June 2014, he began his career at NOVA-Woodbridge as an educational support specialist, where he served in this position for almost four years. Based on his own personal experiences, Aguilar was one of several Woodbridge faculty members involved in an initial conversation to form MAN UP, a minority male mentoring and leadership development program designed to promote the personal, social development and academic improvement of NOVA students. Since its inception in 2013, the program has expanded to NOVA’s Manassas, Alexandria and Annandale campuses. As a MAN UP program leader and mentor, Aguilar received the 2017 Advisor of the Year award for his commitment to the program’s vision and mission. His active involvement with MAN UP aligned with his goals to create supportive relationships that will help minority males overcome barriers toward college graduation.
Aguilar also received the 2013 La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. Regional Excellence Award. Currently, he serves as founder and president of the JMU Latino Alumni Network and scholarship coordinator for Virginia Latino Higher Education Network Scholarship Program.
“Being able to work with students one-on-one and seeing them from the very first time they enter my office as a first-year student to walking across the commencement stage as a NOVA graduate is rewarding,” he said. “I want to help each student accomplish their own unique goals and excel despite their individual circumstances. It rekindles the memories of whom I used to be and why NOVA is so important in attributing to my success.”