For 18-year-old BFA-Fairfax senior Caleb Aiosa-Perrin, teaching acceptance through leadership is one way he plans to change the world. Aiosa-Perrin attended Fletcher Elementary for kindergarten through sixth grade. He recalls fondly the more active parts of elementary school, like snowboarding trips to Smuggler’s Notch.
“When I first started I wasn’t the strongest snowboarder,” Aiosa-Perrin said. “But, I got to learn with all of my friends. It was a different kind of learning experience. I mean, it was still school, but it was teaching a healthy skill and also how to get along and work together. I learned a lot about persistence and a lot about how to learn in a different kind of environment at the top of that mountain. I made really close friendships early on,” he said. “Those people are pretty much family now.”
Aiosa-Perrin’s formative years were not without his share of heartache. His father died of Alzheimer’s Disease when he was just 11 years old, an experience he says caused him to grow up sooner than most kids his age.
“Though it was very upsetting, it taught me to be more independent,” Aiosa-Perrin said. “It was a big change in my life but it also taught me some important life lessons. It taught me to be as kind as I can be and treasure life and all of its experiences.”
He credits his family for helping him endure the hard times. His mother, Theresa, is a former classroom teacher and current reading and math specialist at the Cambridge Elementary School. His older sister lives in NY City and is working on her Master’s Degree in Social Work.
Aiosa-Perrin has participated in sports for the majority of his BFA-Fairfax career. He credits close relationships with his coaches for his success, both in athletics and in life.
“My coaches have been more than just coaches,” Aiosa-Perrin said. “They are really nice people. The school does a really great job of selecting coaches that know kids, that know the sport, and that fit in with the positive culture of the school at the same time.”
As a basketball, soccer and track and field athlete, Aiosa-Perrin says the sports teams he’s participated in are not unlike the small classes he experienced in elementary school.
“Fletcher really helped me learn how to be close friends with other people and we learned how to rely on each other. It taught me how to get along with others, even when I didn’t want to. Sometimes that’s like being on a team.”
A self-professed adventurer, Aiosa-Perrin credits BFA-Fairfax with a variety of personalized opportunities that have allowed him to explore his interests.
“All of my teachers and classes have been flexible and that has helped me a lot to explore my interests,” he said. “I don’t feel like they force anything on you. I have been able to explore things that interest me through different kinds of classes and other out-of-class opportunities.”
“Caleb is a good friend to others,” BFA Fairfax teacher Jensen Welch said. “His experience as a positive teammate in athletics also extends to academics where he interacts with a variety of classmates. He exhibits responsibility towards others and the greater good. I’ve been impressed with Caleb’s perseverance.”
Aiosa-Perrin was named Defensive Player of the Year for his excellence in soccer last year. He is currently captain of his basketball team and a Senior Counselor with BFA’s Junior High Project, individually running small groups of middle schoolers with learning focused on substance abuse prevention. He was chosen for that assignment based on positive role-modeling.
“Basketball has been very important to me for a long time,” Aiosa-Perrin said, recalling fondly time spent building his first hoop with his dad. “It’s great to give back by being one of the leaders on the team. I like to have close relationships. I like the whole team to be close. That is something that is really important to me. I try to be sure that I help everybody have a positive attitude and to help work out any problems between teammates.”
His hard work in the area of sports has paid off. During his sophomore year, he was selected to attend an athletic leadership conference in Burlington. The conference offered workshops on leadership and communications both as part of a team and in the community.
“The focus was on making the world around us a better place, whether that be with sports or something else,” he said.
Following in his sister’s footsteps, in addition to sports, Aiosa-Perrin has worked as a lifeguard during the summers at Smuggler’s Notch since ninth grade, an occupation he says requires intensive training and concentration.
“I was inspired by a Fletcher Elementary field trip to the Smuggs Water Park,” Aiosa-Perrin said of his motivation to become a lifeguard. “I like to swim and I like being outside,” he said. “When I went on the trip I saw that I could do both, and work at the same time.”
The self-professed travel buff has visited Washington State, California, Virginia and a smattering of states across the East Coast, as well as Canada and Mexico. “I really liked California and Mexico,” he said. “It’s exciting to experience different places and new cultures.”
Despite his jovial nature, Aiosa-Perrin has a deep side, frequently thinking about the state of the world and how he can help.
“I think the greatest problem in the world right now is that some people do not accept others who are different,” he said. “People are all different and bring new and exciting things to the table. I just accept and welcome that. I wish everyone did.”
As an African American, Aiosa-Perrin considers himself “pretty fortunate to be part of an accepting school and community.” He says he has experienced little to no issues based on his race. Despite this, he looks forward to exploring the world beyond Vermont.
Aiosa-Perrin has not yet made a final decision on a college major, but he will likely have a wide variety of choices, given his acceptance at five of his six top-choice schools including George Mason University, College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina University, Springfield College and the newly restructured Northern Vermont University. He is considering the fields of athletic training, kinesiology or marine biology.
“I like to have fun. I like to get my work done and focus on what I need to do but at the end of the day I like to have fun and be with my friends and family and experience new things,” Aiosa-Perrin said.
As for the mark he hopes to leave on the world, Aiosa-Perrin says, “I want to try to educate young people that being different isn’t something that’s bad. It’s something to be celebrated. It makes everybody who they are.”