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Aaron Fulk: San Rafael’s own Samoan Hulk

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Aaron Fulk: San Rafael’s own Samoan Hulk

AJH PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC

AJH PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC

AJH PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC

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You are walking through a vast white forest and snow is flying every which way. You push forward, fingers and toes numb, cheeks frozen, and turn into the wind. You are lost. Chills envelop your body, and fear creeps in through your wet boots.  All hope is seeping away. Who will save you?

The lights of a house flicker up ahead. The cabin seems to call you in as it radiates with warmth. You approach, knocking on the door of a beautiful wooden cabin, smoke curling out the chimney. Everything feels very Polar-Express like – too perfect to be true.

Aaron lifts the dog for a nice pre-child family photo.

The door swings open to a man in a William and Lee College football t-shirt. Aaron Fulk stands before you. Boisterous aunts are hollering at each other behind him in order to get their voices over the music playing, and you know that you are saved. Aaron’s doors are always open, “I want to treat everyone without judgment and with respect.” 

So maybe this is a little bit, seeing as it would be surprising to find a large Samoan family living in the middle of a snow-swept forest, but the essence remains true. Aaron Fulk owns this house. This personality characterizes his being. He would be the man to invite in strangers in, offers them hot cocoa and a dry their wet socks in front of the fireplace. Think Kristoff from Frozen. This trait of hospitality is not only something which he strives to and does embody, but it is also a core value of his culture – that of his childhood community and his family heritage.

“Every teacher loved us because we got so much attention being twins.”

Embracing diversity means welcoming all people. An “All Boys Catholic High School” might not initially scream “diversity,” but in Aaron’s case, that couldn’t be farther from the truth: “Now that I have visited over five hundred high schools, I can see that mine was one of, if not the, most diverse high schools. There were fifty boys from Tijuana who came over the border every day. It was diverse with races, ethnicities, languages, as well as wealthy and poor families…”

Being surrounded by diversity is an exceptional opportunity, especially in today’s day and age, where the importance of empathizing with people has only elevated: “[This diversity] influenced my personal politics and how I view issues,” Aaron explained. With family and friends on both sides of the American-Mexican border, he realized that he wanted to give kids on both sides equal opportunities. Aaron can truly empathize with students from various backgrounds because he has been surrounded by such a vast array of people his entire life.

Most people, he explained, can get an education. The difference lies in where they believe they can go to college: “I want all of these kids to know they have choices,” he explained. Aaron serves those around him, with a generous smile, and an ability to crack jokes setting many students at ease. Apart from the college counseling he does at Marin Academy, Aaron works with low-income students on the side, to offer them free college counseling: “I want to help students with a similar background to me to make sure that they don’t just get lucky, maybe, but that it works out.” A full financial aid college graduate himself, he can use his Fa’a Samoa ways to help reveal the many opportunities to excel in the world that are available to low income, disadvantaged kids “from the other side of the tracks.”

The newlyweds hold hands as they embark into their new life together.

Aaron’s Samoan values are an ingrained part of his character, despite never having lived on the island:  “My family is so proud of where we come from and what we have accomplished, while still being humble. My grandparents were born on an island without electricity and my grandfather was a United States Marine. Family is the most important thing in my life. For us, it is important to treat everyone with respect no matter what their job or their story.” These family values are now ones that he wants to share with younger generations. You may have seen a small Samoan baby crawling around San Rafael – Aaron is now a father.

We sat in the Conference Room, as he thought about the significance of having a son. The only sound in the air came from a ball he was tossing. The baseball launched upward, red stitching spinning as it peaked and fell, smoothly landing in his hand. Up and down, he looked at the ball, he looked at me: “It’s certainly shifted my perspective on a lot of things. He’s making me a much better husband.”

Aaron enjoys spending time with his family.

Watching his baby and his wife has allowed him to deepen his understanding of what matters in life. “He’s making me more patient, more present. I have to sit and play on the floor for hours. And my wife… I have been so fortunate.” Seeing his wife, and the time she dedicates to the family, has continued to build upon his desire to be the backbone of his clan.

Generations of other Samoan families have created and strengthened the importance of family. Similar to the ways in which he embodies the welcoming character of the man helping lost strangers in the forest, Aaron opens doors to the world for kids who need a little push and support.

He felt that he was lucky. He got full financial aid to play football in college. This is so many boy’s dream, but not all children are this fortunate. He takes the values which generations of Fulks have instilled into him, to expand his family to the kids he can help, and give high schoolers opportunities that may appear outside of their reach. Walking through the doors into Aaron’s office opens doors for students that are much greater than the eye can see. 

 

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