While in high school AJ attended The FRIENDS’ Abaco Science Alliance Conference where he became involved in our after school program and earned his SCUBA certificate. In AJ’s words: “During summers I worked at a dive shop just so I could be on the ocean. Under water was literally entering a whole new world, everything slowed down, and I heard only the sounds of bubbles and my heart beat.”
He then was accepted for the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization whale camp in Sandy Point and later that year, through FRIENDS, he worked alongside college professors and PhD students studying mangroves, seagrass beds, turtles, sharks, and bonefish. By the 12th grade AJ was completely engulfed in the world of conservation and preservation.
FRIENDS’ Executive Director, Kristin Cartwright-Williams, suggested AJ apply for the Island School in Cape Eleuthera. He recalls, “ I’ve never been so excited in my entire life as when I received my acceptance letter. Island School was amazing. There were students from all around the world and I made great friends and fantastic memories, and even graduated with the “Cacique Award.” AJ returned to Marsh Harbour and became a part time employee at FRIENDS.
And then AJ’s life changed dramatically. He fell ill, was biopsied and diagnosed with Non Hodgkins B-Cell Lymphoma. He literally thought his entire world had come to an end. But, after battling for fifteen weeks in the hospital, eight invasive surgeries, countless chest tubes, and eight brutal cycles of chemotherapy, he stood victorious.
In October 2014 AJ was hired full time at FRIENDS. From November to April he helped Miracle Workers Construction and South Island Solar with the construction of the new Frank Kenyon Research Centre. As he said, “It was exciting to learn to install solar panels and tie the wires into circuits. Watching the works of our hands from the ground up gave me a feeling of accomplishment that no one can take away. I felt so proud!”
Unbelievably, a second downturn struck, AJ’s cancer reoccurred and spread even larger. Then a miracle, he met Marjolein Scott, President of the Abaco Cancer Society, at the grand opening of the Frank Kenyon Centre. In AJ’s words; “I told her everything about my state of health. I’ll never forget that day, her words to me were “here’s my number, I’ll take care of everything from here on in!” And that’s exactly what she did. She literally took over everything and thanks to her, the Abaco Cancer Society, FRIENDS and God, I’m here in Greenville South Carolina receiving the best possible treatments.”