Aaron Tod stepped off the lift, digging his skis into the snow-coated earth. He took a breath of the cold mountain air, raised his eyebrows, and examined the land below his feet. He spent the morning at Hunter Mountain, getting used to the brisk dawn and a pair of rental skis that were far too short for his size.
Aaron joined the Marist Ski Team in the fall of his sophomore year with free intention and a soul sought out for adventure—without actually knowing how to ski. “I was just on the bunny hill thinking, ‘Yeah, this is just not working out,’” he said. “By the end of the day I kind of picked it up and figured out how to go down the mountain.”
WILD KIDS—“My comfort zone is being outside of my comfort zone,” Aaron said. “I feel like I am so curious about what is out there, what could be out there or what I can be missing.” Aaron is endlessly driven in his travels and endeavors by his hunger for culture, exploration and wisdom—and by his innate fear of boredom. As a Marist junior, born and raised in Hawaii, he has become seasoned in further building the community that has granted him immense foundation for his explorations.
“I love the outdoors,” he said. With his father’s skills in action sports and his mother’s love for travel—Aaron’s interests derive from the soil of his hometown island.
He grew up racing motocross, hiking, surfing, and everything in between. “I was into motocross pretty competitively—and I thought, probably until I was in high school, that I would be a professional.” With attending a private high school and indulging into his studies, he realized that he was more interested in school than he had expected—while his passion and skill in action sports continued to carry him through various other sectors of his life.
When Aaron was in the sixth grade, he created a small, outdoor hiking group with his English teacher and his classmates. The club grew into an official, nonprofit outdoor education and leadership organization, formally known as Wild Kids—“created by youth, for youth,” in its tagline. “In the back of my high school we had a huge forest, and she [Christina] would take us out there—and it kind of just blew up from there.”
Aaron and his friends were part of the first, trial group—and “as they grew up, they grew the program,” according to program director, Christina Hoe. Aaron sits on the Board of the program today, as he spent a large portion of his life delving into all aspects of its development. Their team has raised over $15,000 in scholarships for the program throughout the process as well. Wild Kids grew into a summer program in 2010, and the group began taking trips to Montana every summer to explore the the Rockies. “The whole idea is teaching outdoor education, unplugging from electronics, getting away from the city life and kind of immersing yourself in nature,” Aaron said.
Christina first met Aaron when he was 11 years old, as a student in her English class. “Even as a kid, he was extraordinarily observant and perceptive, keenly aware of the complex human dynamics and working out solutions to problems in his head,” she said. “He's more of a dreamer than people realize because he presents so professionally. Beyond that ‘nice kid’ persona is a total innovator.”
“He'll just take on any opportunity to explore himself and this world, and then he'll fully integrate the experience into his world view,” Christina said.
Aaron Tod, originally from Hawaii, has immense hunger for adventure, and an innate fear of boredom. He spent his freshman year in the Freshman Florence Experience (FFE) program, and has studied abroad in Australia, and again in Florence, since. Growing up racing motocross and indulging in action sports, he returned to the Poughkeepsie campus in his sophomore year to join the Marist Club Skii and Club Rugby teams—without any prior skill or experience in either sport. Aaron also helped to create the nonprofit outdoor education and leadership organization, Wild Kids, based out of Hawaii and Montana. He spent this past winter break at home, selling locally-sourced and environmentally conscious acai fruit bowls from his bicycle.
‘JUST SO SWEET’—Between surfing a river wave in Munich, Germany and spending fall break surfing in Portugal, Aaron has used his array of study abroad experiences to chase his passions—and some of the best waves in the world. In Portugal, he encountered one of the creators of Surf for All, a national organization that sponsors surf programs to accommodate developmentally disabled teenagers. “He was a surfer and got into a motorcycle accident,” Aaron recalled, being unprecedentedly inspired by the story.
Aaron spent his freshman year in the Freshman Florence Experience (FFE) program, and has studied again, in Florence, in his junior fall semester. He is currently studying in Australia, completing his junior spring semester. He has only spent one full year on the Poughkeepsie campus thus far—but in the year in which he did, his love for action sports remained constant, despite the changes in the weather. He joined the Marist Club Ski Team, as well as the Club Rugby Team—without prior knowledge or skill in either sport.
“Freshman year, I met people from every country you could imagine,” he said. “I was so overwhelmed—and when I tried to think about my year and what I appreciated most, and it was the interactions I had with those people. From what they ate, their daily norm or just activities they like to do—it was just so sweet.” He deeply appreciated the amount of physical presence allowed in his Palaces of Florence class, where he and his classmates were able to go into the palaces and analyze them from from their own standpoint.“To be in the environment where these things were actually happening is just totally different.”
‘I DON’T REALLY WANT TO BE A BIG WALL STREET GUY’—As a junior business finance major, also taking classes in computer science, Aaron holds interest in working in startups. This past summer, he split his time between two internships—working as a mortgage banking analyst for the Bank of Hawaii for the first half, and at a tech startup, Fair Harbor for the next.
His laid back personality and love for action sports was granted opportunity to flourish at Fair Harbor—which worked to create a platform for Hawaiian tourist companies to hold their bookings online rather than over the phone. “It was run out of a warehouse with all these plastic tables and a bunch of Mac Computers,” he said. “You go from a corporate bank to these surfers who created this startup, and became successful.”
Aaron fit right into the company—as another one of “those surfers,” finding continuity between their passions, alongside giving opportunity for others to engage in them simultaneously.
“The way I live my life is through my interests,” he said. “I do a lot of side research and networking with people, I think that’s the most interesting thing for me.” “I don’t want to really be a Wall Street big guy. That’s not really my goal—at all.” For Aaron, the entire concept of networking lies beyond the limits of suits, ties and events garnished in formalities.
While studying in Florence, he “bumped into” a team of executives from GoPro at a restaurant, and was able to chat with them and hear their stories firsthand. Aaron was fascinated by his connection with the GoPro team, as they all shared a similar passion for adventure, being in different countries and trying new things through the course of their daily lives. “Rather than networking through a weird interview, I met them in this atmosphere that was just totally different.”
With his whole family made up of entrepreneurs—not always deriving from a path of higher education—Aaron plans on attending graduate school and seeking out a plan to ultimately, work for himself. “My long term goal has always kind of been the same,” he said. “I love food, I would love to own a restaurant. I would love to be working for myself."
Between his second Florentine experience and his adventures in Australia, Aaron conquered that immense fear of boredom over his winter break at home in Hawaii. “I really wanted to do something with my time,” he said. Aaron spent his time between December and January pedaling a bicycle, welded to have three wheels with a cage in the front to hold a freezer—in which contained the Amazon superfruit, acai. He utilized his own business, a food bike, to sell popular blended smoothie-bowl, acai bowls.
“My particular niche is that I am selling from a bike and preparing it Portuguese style—which I learned when I travelling to Portugal,” Aaron said. “My goal is to start a movement that minimizes the environmental impact of the commodity chain.” He used mostly locally-sourced toppings from Hawaii, which he sourced himself from vendors and purchased at wholesale price. He remains consistent in his mission, using 100 percent biodegradable bowls and spoons made of sugar cane.
“I still have a few kinks to work out, but in time I believe I can get there and have an impact on the people and community around me.”
“A major change I've seen in Aaron over the years is that he's found his voice,” Christina said. “He shows up—no matter what,” she continued. “To me, this may be the most important attribute—the capacity to show up for your community. And, then you can add to that with a huge dose of imagination and courage—and then, you have Aaron Tod.”