AJ's Story

AJ sets sights on career in artificial intelligence

What do you aspire to be doing in five years? It’s can be a difficult question, but Covenant House Missouri (CHMO) resident AJ has an answer. He plans to be completing his senior year of college at a premier tech school – MIT, Caltech, Stanford or Carnegie Mellon.

The 17-year-old is focused on his goals, and he has never been deterred by any of the challenges life has thrown at him. AJ’s mother lives in Mexico, and he does not receive much assistance from his older brother and sister who live in St. Louis. He has moved around throughout high school, and at one point he was walking several miles to and from school each day.

And yet, not only does he stay in school, he is completely devoted to his studies and extracurricular activities. He has found stability at CHMO, in our Transitional Living Program (TLP). CHMO provides holistic, individualized programming designed to help guide youth from homelessness to hope. Youth can stay on our TLP floor for two years or until they turn 22.

AJ, a high school junior, is a member of the Technology Student Association, and he serves as a math tutor. AJ is also hoping to take on a new leadership role, as he works to start a rocketry club at the middle school in his district. He is currently building a model rocket from scratch – rather than from a kit – or “MacGyvering it,” as he says.

He has been interested in computers and computer science since eighth grade, and he has recently begun exploring fields like cyber security. AJ wants to study artificial intelligence, which he describes as math applied through digital programs.

Ultimately, AJ’s goal is to combine artificial intelligence with quantum computing to work toward worldwide education reform. He believes digital, personalized learning will eliminate disparities in education.

AJ has lived at CHMO since January 2019. He has been part of other programs and stayed in other shelters, and he feels happiest and most successful at CHMO. AJ felt that other programs limited his ability to make school a priority. They limited his access to his computer, and often did not allow him to stay after school.

CHMO’s policies have not interfered at all with his academic goals, and he has found a great deal of support and flexibility from staff. AJ’s CHMO therapist, Quincy Phipps, has helped him order rocketry supplies, and she edits his essays. He says he is very thankful for her assistance, and the support of his case manager.

“Covenant House is a safe place to stay and to do my own thing. I definitely appreciate that,” AJ says.

He’s hoping to participate in a six-week science and math camp at Washington University in St. Louis over the summer. He has received a partial scholarship for the camp but does need to come up with more money. To help ensure his college dreams will become a reality, AJ has also applied to be a Questbridge Scholar. Questbridge helps high-achieving, low-income high school seniors gain admission and full-tuition scholarships to selective colleges and universities.

We can’t wait to see what AJ accomplishes next! To help AJ and other CHMO youth achieve their goals, please consider making a donation at covenanthousemo.org/donate.

Katie Stalter