Although she comes to Christopher Newport from Fairfax, Virginia, senior Denisse Aquino was born and raised in Bolivia. Witnessing the poverty and illness of daily life there motivated her to serve others and enroll in CNU’s Pre-Med Scholars Program in the hope of becoming a pediatrician.
While a Captain, Aquino has impacted the community as much as it has affected her. Among her many activities, Aquino is president of CNU’s chapter of Be the Match on Campus, part of a national bone marrow registry that enlists college students across America in the fight against leukemia and other blood disorders. The effort has had a profound effect on Aquino. “Understanding that simply registering and getting a cheek swab could result in a match for someone in need of bone marrow astounded me and gave me hope for those who are fighting for their lives,” she says.
The group registers people as potential donors and educates them about diseases that require specific bone marrow matches. “I have given much of myself to this organization because I truly care about it and want it to stand for something, flourish on campus, and be known for its cause,” Aquino says. The group holds registry drives each semester, and Aquino says at least one student has already been matched to a patient in need. “Knowing that at least one transplant has occurred because of this organization is enough because it means one life has been saved,” she adds.
CNU offers students like Aquino ample opportunities for service and life-changing experiences beyond the classroom. She is also a Bonner Service Scholar. Bonner is a four-year, developmental program that educates, equips and inspires students to engage in the local community and beyond. She mentors inner-city kids at the Youth Volunteer Corps of Hampton Roads. “The passion students here have for different missions is what makes this school special,” she says. “CNU is a great place to leave a legacy and make a difference.”
Aside from directly helping to save lives, leading Be the Match has allowed Aquino to better see a future for herself in medicine. “Letting go of fear and discomfort in order to talk to people and tell them about the organization has taught me to put others’ needs before my own,” she explains. Aquino hopes to continue to help others on campus and after graduation. As she says, “know where your values lie, and everything will fall into place.”