News • January 21, 2021

Alumnus teaches and shares his story to encourage others

Alumnus teaches and shares his story to encourage others

Riverside, Calif. (Jan. 21, 2021) – Growing up in Rubidoux, California, college did not interest Ruben Aguilar (’17, ’18).

He joined the Army after he heard a recruiter speak at his high school.

“I was not a good student. I was not ready for college,” Aguilar said. “I was more like, how I can get out of here as fast as possible?”

Yet after service, Aguilar went to Norco Community College then California Baptist University, ultimately earning a master’s degree. In fall 2020, Aguilar was named Alumnus of the Year by the Riverside Community College District.

He was serving in Iraq when he was injured by an improvised explosive device in 2007. He spent six months in the hospital and has had three shoulder surgeries.

In 2009, Aguilar decided to use his military benefits to attend college. He chose Norco College. At the time, the campus had a Veterans Affairs representative but no veteran resource center. Aguilar and other veterans worked with school administration to create one.  

For Aguilar, it was about helping other veterans.

“It’s a place where I can go and where people understand the different things that I’ve gone through. A lot of us at the time, in 2009, were Afghanistan vets or Iraqi vets,” Aguilar said. “Having a place to go, I know exactly what you’ve gone through.”

When Aguilar was injured, doctors told him he would have some physical restrictions. He wanted to know why.

“Why can’t I do this, what are my limitations? How do the muscles inside of my shoulder work?” Aguilar said.

That led him to get an associate degree in health and kinesiology (he also got two associate degrees in other areas). He started looking at and visiting four-year universities.

“I came to CBU and everything lined up for me,” Aguilar said. “We talk about mind, body, spirit. God is at the forefront of my life.”

He earned his bachelor’s, then his master’s. With a wife and four kids, he condensed the two-year kinesiology graduate program into one. During that busy year, his go-to phrase was “it’s time to strap back on the boots.”

After reaching that goal, he became an adjunct at CBU for two years and did a student teaching internship program at Norco College. In fall 2020, he started teaching at Norco full time.

He wants to encourage community college students like his instructors did for him and to recommend that students transfer to a four-year college. There are many reasons why they do not.

“I felt like [community college] was where I wanted to be and where God was calling me to go share my story. I came from this background. I walked the same walk that some of these kids have,” Aguilar said. “I want to teach them and guide them. It’s hard to tell someone we need help. That’s our culture. I want to change the mindset.”

Aguilar also strives to help the youth in Rubidoux. Since 2016, he and friends have worked to get the kids off the street. They connect youth with jobs at a vintage airplane restoration company. Then Aguilar teaches them about health and fitness. A year ago, Aguilar and his friends turned their efforts into a nonprofit, A1 Skyraider Foundation.

Aguilar said he does not work for the recognition, but the alumnus award gave him a spark of motivation.

“Sometimes we feel we’re not making an impact and then getting an award like this, it’s like there are people watching,” Aguilar said. “My wife, my mom, every single faculty member on the Health Science campus and the kinesiology department made me who I am and made me grow to be a better person, and to share God’s gift, God’s Word and to be a leader.”

Contact CBU Marketing and Communication

Vice President for Marketing and Communication:
Angela Meluski

8432 Magnolia Avenue
Riverside, CA 92504