From Santa Clara Accounting major to employee number three and CFO at the LA-based nonprofit human-I-T, Aaron Wilkins is changing the world - one piece of technology at a time.
It was while performing community service as a Santa Clara student that Aaron Wilkins ’09 first realized that access to information and perspectives are not equal for all people. “I was volunteering through Santa Clara’s Arrupe Program tutoring math and science to low-income middle school and high school students when I realized an informational gap existed in different communities.”
That volunteer experience planted the first seeds for what would shape Wilkins’ future career. At that time, the transfer student and accounting major couldn’t envision what his life’s work would be, but he knew he wanted to use his accounting knowledge to help startups grow – and that he needed a sense of higher purpose in his work. He spent many of his days studying at the new library and business school, both of which opened during his time as a student. He also worked out at the gym with friends and classmates. With that and the 25-30 hours per week spent working at his family’s property management company, his days were full.
After graduating, he spent three years in private accounting where he learned a great deal about how businesses operate, but was missing that sense of higher meaning in his work. His friend Gabe Middleton helped him find that purpose. Middleton was co-founding a startup called human-I-T, a company that would refurbish electronics to be reused by low-income individuals and nonprofits. “Gabe introduced me to the idea of starting a company with the intention to disrupt the e-waste recycling industry and help provide technology, internet and digital training to nonprofits and families in need.”
Remembering his experience tutoring underprivileged students who lacked technological resources, Wilkins knew this was what he was called to do. As employee number three and chief financial officer at human-I-T, Wilkins’ career is now aligned with his higher purpose. “Our mission is straightforward,” he explained. “Less e-waste and more people with access to the knowledge and opportunities technology provides.”
Since its inception, human-I-T has diverted more than two million pounds of e-waste and distributed more than 6,000 computers to families in need. It is the only nonprofit in the nation providing technology, low-cost internet, and training to low income families and has become part of the fabric of their community in Los Angeles. “OurCycle LA” is a city-wide initiative with Mayor Eric Garcetti and Council President Herb Wesson that invites LA-based organizations to donate reusable electronics while providing LA families with new skills and job training.
Wilkins credits Santa Clara for inspiring him to find like-minded people with a shared sense of ethics in the workplace. “And it was Santa Clara that helped me start my journey toward having an impact on people in the LA region and across the U.S.”
The Bronco alumnus gives to SCU because he wants to provide the same type of Santa Clara education and experiences he received to other students who may not be able to afford it. He wants to make a larger impact by bringing more students with diverse backgrounds here. “Diverse opinions lead to the best ideas,” he pointed out. “Ideas help spur innovation. “There is no better way to make Santa Clara even more innovative than to increase diversity."
- Audrey Redmond