Campus Life

Recent Grad Reflects On Navigating Texas A&M With Autism

All students who attend Texas A&M have unique challenges as they make their way through college. Aaron Zajac '20, who has autism, flourished as a member of the Corps of Cadets.
By Audrey Mayes ’20, Texas A&M Corps of Cadets January 28, 2020

Aaron Zajac, far right, gathers for a group photo with his outfit buddies.

 

Texas A&M University can be a challenging academic institution for anyone who attends; some students have more on their plates than others. Aaron Zajac, class of 2020, faced some challenges that most Aggies do not. A member of the Corps of Cadets and a December 2019 graduate, Zajac has autism.

“I have learned that the only constant in life is change, and you have to learn how to adapt and overcome”
~ Aaron Zajac ’20

He said he always knew he wanted to go to Texas A&M. His Aggie story starts with his parents. His mother, class of ‘92 and an avid Aggie football fan, raised Aaron to be an Aggie. She always talked about the great traditions at Texas A&M and instilled in him the core values for which Aggies are known, Zajac said. His father, a colonel in the U.S. Army, was a big contributor to Zajac’s decision to join the Corps of Cadets. Zajac’s childhood dream was to join the military, he said.

When he applied to Texas A&M, he was aware of the struggles he would face as a student and a cadet, he said. His intentions for attending Texas A&M to pursue a college degree were not completely self-serving. He said he aspires to open doors for others with autism so they do not have to endure the same challenges he had to overcome.

As a history major, Zajac studied the cause-and-effect relationship of leadership decisions. Coupled with the experience that he gained through his leadership development in the Corps, he said he achieved the level of confidence in his leadership abilities and ability to inspire others that serves as a goal for all senior cadets.

He said the biggest lesson he learned during his time at Texas A&M is that change is inevitable. “I have learned that the only constant in life is change, and you have to learn how to adapt and overcome,” he said. He said his social life flourished, and he went from hiding out in his room to enjoying time with his fellow cadets.

Zajac was a member of Company A2, and served as the outfit’s scholastic officer and a platoon leader. Zajac is very self-aware and readily admits that his biggest challenge is communication. Through his Corps experience, he said he learned a lot about communication skills and found that people were always willing to work with him. “Everyone has their own battle, but the Corps will help you overcome it,” he said.

His greatest accomplishment during his time at Texas A&M was remaining on the dean’s list throughout the entirety of his academic career, he said, adding that he graduated a semester early.

Zajac said graduating from Texas A&M meant far more than just a receiving a diploma. His goal when entering Texas A&M was to further his education in hopes that he would one day be able to assist those who share in the same struggles that he has experienced as an individual with autism.

After crossing the stage in his senior boots to receive his diploma, Zajac began yet another new chapter in his life. He is attending Pepperdine University where he will pursue graduate studies towards a certification in behavioral analysis. He said he plans to use this certificate to help others with disabilities, including those on the autism spectrum and veterans facing challenges of their own. When asked what advice he has for those who have hutism, he said, “It is worth it—the struggles and challenges. They’re all meant to make you a better person.”

Media contact: Lesley Henton, 979-845-5591, lshenton@tamu.edu,

 

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