It’s often said that people get out of the college experience what they put into it, and for many students that experience consists of going to class, studying, and then returning home.

For UNM’s Aaron Ochoa, college is an opportunity to help make the UNM community a better place, to get involved, to make new lifelong friendships, to gain leadership skills that benefit students once they graduate…

And, yes, to help bring smiles to the faces of kids fighting cancer as a member of UNM’s LoboTHON team.

Ochoa came to UNM from MacAllen, Texas with the idea that he wanted to get the most out of his time in Albuquerque. Not satisfied with just attending classes and returning to the dorms, he joined the UNM Greek Life community, and from there he was encouraged to join LoboTHON, UNM’s dance marathon fundraiser for the UNM Children’s Hospital.

“A fraternity brother of mine actually co-founded LoboTHON and I had experienced the LoboTHON Dance Marathon my freshman year and I knew wanted to get involved.

“Working with the kids is one of the most incredible, rewarding and humbling experiences. Something that’s unique about UNM’s Dance Marathon is that we are the only Children’s Miracle Network dance marathon whose hospital is right across the street. So that’s unique. The close proximity allows us to have a closer connection to the kids we’re helping. It’s also just an incredible experience. We do what we do for those kids and we have a constant reminder of our purpose when we look across the street every day.”

From rugby to “The Lord of the Rings,” and politics to the great outdoors, there are over 100 student organizations at UNM to connects students who share the same interests. And one of Ochoa’s missions in his remaining time at UNM is to encourage students to join their fellow Lobos and get involved.

“College is a lot more than just going to class. Of course, your academics are the number one priority, but becoming involved in student organizations, whether it’s in Greek Life, or ASUNM or any of the student organizations on campus, it’s a great way to become involved, meet new people, learn leadership and professional skills, as well as grow as a person.”

But college eventually comes to an end, and working with LoboTHON and other UNM organizations have already opened up a number of possibilities that Ochoa might not have ever considered, including working in higher education.

“I’m interested in include working at a university in student affairs or student activities. But I’m also considering the possibility of applying for the Anderson School of Management’s 3-2 MBA program and using my MBA to help a nonprofit.”