Mercer County recognizes local teen as Young Woman of Achievement
By Thomas Wiedmann | Correspondent
When Araba Aikins was named as one of two Mercer County Young Women of Achievement for 2018, she was admittedly honored, but not only for her diligent volunteer and service work. She hopes her recognition will symbolize the true potential of her generation.
“[The award] showed that all the charity work young people do doesn’t go unnoticed and that we are able to break the stigma of our generation that ‘doesn’t do anything,’” said Aikins, of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square. “It really shows that young people are out there attempting to make the world a better place, and I’m glad I get to be a part of that change.”
Aikins, 17, was recently recognized by the Mercer County Commission on the Status of Women as a Young Woman of Achievement, which honors a high school student for outstanding volunteer work within the county.
While the award depicts her as a young woman of overall achievement, Aikins said her volunteering and faith go hand in hand.
“My faith always keeps me thankful, humble, open-minded and accepting. It may not be the thing I always want to discuss, but it’s the first thing that affects every word I say, and it keeps me in sync with my values and as a member of the church,” she said. “I try to apply my faith to every situation and circumstance to help develop my character. Faith may be a noun, but in my life, it’s a verb – essentially a call to action.”
For Aikins, who is a member of the parish youth ministry, her “call to action” includes being active in her community – volunteering in school and even across the globe.
At her school, she leads the marketing team for Robbinsville High School’s FIRST Robotics team, Nemesis, and she is a senior Girl Scout of Central and Southern New Jersey. She has also participated in the nonprofit International Health Care Volunteers’ annual medical mission trip to Ghana.
Last year, Aikins was among those who received a Timothy Award, presented annually by the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life, to recognize youth who follow in the footsteps of St. Timothy as an example of love, faith and virtue.
As a devout Catholic, she has participated in the Junior Lector ministry, served as a Reader for the parish children’s liturgy and takes part in the annual summer youth ministry trip to Preston County, W. Va., for the weeklong service home improvement project known as Project Appalachia.
Not only has Aikins spend time during the service project lending her talents to the community, she has also organized a group of teens to help prepare meals, coordinated an evening prayer service and been chosen as a speaker to share her experience with the parish at Mass upon the group’s return.
“I love seeing the faces of the families when we complete the projects,” she said. “Their eyes fill with joy, and they are grateful beyond words – even the smallest projects have the greatest impact.”
Parishioner Richard Pieslak, Project Appalachia trip coordinator, said he is impressed most with Aikins’ leadership ability. “She leads with confidence and is always willing to share her knowledge with others to develop their leadership abilities. She’s a young lady who embraces her Catholic faith in all that she does.”
While Aikins may serve as a role model for the youth in her parish and community, she says a few of her own role models include her mother, Melinda Gates and Jackie Kennedy, all of whom she sees as “strong, independent women leaders and philanthropists.”