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Spreading Joy to Others

Check back each day this week as we share the stories of some of our incredible students.

Providence Cristo Rey junior Aja Thomas knows what it feels like to go unnoticed.

Growing up in a household full of kids, meant that she didn’t get much special attention at home. To make matters worse, middle school proved to be an unkind and unforgiving place for Aja. Once a happy and outgoing kid, her school environment was so negative that she began spending more and more time by herself. She had been going to the same school since kindergarten, and from early on, Aja found herself becoming the subject of rumors and being talked about by her peers.

“Having to wake up every day and go to the same school and go through that same stuff. I became a silent person,” Aja said. “I didn’t share what happened, you know.”

But when she graduated from 8th grade and finally transitioned into high school at Providence Cristo Rey, things finally started to turn around for Aja.

“I transitioned from being talked about, teachers not helping me, rumors being spread, to coming to Providence and having good energy, having good relationships with teachers, and being noticed. My middle school was small, but they chose favorites and kids there weren’t really nice,” Aja explained. “I also didn’t grow up around a good part of Indiana. So, coming from there to here, it was a lot different, I would say, a lot different. I’m a lot happier here. I get noticed here. I get help. I get teacher one-on-one time.”

Aja began to get involved with school and in extracurricular activities – especially sports.

“I pretty much play every sport here!” she laughed. “It gets me through the year and makes it go a lot faster. I don’t want to go home every day and do the same thing.”

Aja’s current favorite is basketball, but she has also been an integral member of the cheer squad and the track and field team.

Another aspect of PCR that has helped Aja start to regain a sense of love and self-worth has been her Corporate Work Study job at California Closets. Interested in studying business and opening up her own small business one day, Aja has found inspiration in learning the workings of a real small business from the inside out.

“Working at California Closets I’ve gotten to see more of how a business operates,” Aja said, as she talked about her own dreams of moving to Atlanta, Georgia to open a nail salon in a city with a robust and successful black business community.

“I think that’s really cool. I can’t wait until I get to that level. It’s inspired me a lot. It’s like, well, if they can do it, maybe I could too. Maybe I can make it. Yeah, it’s two different careers, but the way I see it, they started this business from nothing, and now they’re out here making closets for people and making a lot of money off of it. I want to do that, you know?”

Aja spends her workdays at California Closets organizing, helping with paperwork for new and existing clients, and assisting with other projects around the office. She has been surprised with how much she has come to love organizing and has been proud of how much her confidence and work ethic have grown.

However, continuing her studies and becoming a successful businesswoman are not Aja’s top priorities in life.

“My only goal in life, I would say, is to bring people happiness,” Aja said with conviction. “That’s what I like to do – make people happy, make them feel like they have someone in this world because a lot of people don’t feel like that, nowadays especially.”

Instead of making her bitter or hopeless, her own experiences of loneliness and hurt have given her a passion for bringing others joy and for making them feel noticed in a way that she did not as a child. And that desire is not a theoretical one for Aja. Aja works hard to lift people up every single day.

“I just like to make people feel like they have someone there for them, even if that just means talking to them, complimenting them – I try to do that. I work, so when I work, I try to give everyone a compliment before they leave just to make them feel good. I want to give them a reason to be happy, be positive, or just make them feel special in some sort of way. A lot of people can go through the day and not be noticed at all, and that’s really sad. I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re alone because that’s not a good feeling.

Aja has seen firsthand how difficult today’s society can be for kids.

“Nowadays it’s really hard,” she explains. “There are so many things going on with kids now, with social media and all that. A lot of kids don’t care about people’s feelings, but I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to not care. Stuff happens, I get that, but we have to be positive towards each other.”

Here at Providence, Aja has found that positivity that she once so desperately sought.

Who has made her feel most noticed and seen?

“Mr. Dishman -who would have known?!” she says, grinning broadly. “Mr. Jordan - I used to think Mr. Jordan was so mean. When I met him my freshman year, I was like – yeah, we’re not going to have a good four years with him, and then at some point we just got close. And Mr. Williams… he’s amazing. Ms. Napora – she’s really cool... Even the president – that’s my buddy right there!”

“Every person I’ve met here has made me feel welcomed. There is no one left out of that group. Every teacher I’ve encountered. Every dean. I like being noticed and feeling like I have somewhere to go when I need to talk or just to feel welcomed when I don’t get that at home or anywhere else. It’s nice to come here and get that.”

Want to support students like Aja? Your gift in any amount helps to support critical programs and services and ensures that all students are able to afford a Providence Cristo Rey education. Make your gift today!


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