I first met Patrick Aquino ’12 as a regular at the Math/Science Resource Center where he worked, and we established a friendly rapport. I now see Aquino everywhere I go, multiple times a day, despite our divergent interests. There’s no telling why our paths cross so often, but I’ve got a hypothesis: Between his soft spot for children, diva-liscious stage presence and savant-like memory for birthdays, the guy has an undeniably magnetic personality.
Is the interview starting? I should probably stop eating.
Whatcha munching on?
It’s my favorite Paresky dish: chickpea naan.
Are you a vegetarian?
Yeah. I turned vegetarian during my freshman year because I gained 30 pounds between the start of school and Thanksgiving!
Is that biologically possible?
Yeah, I used to be large and in charge! So I gave up meat and desserts starting January of my freshman year.
So you’re a math major who doesn’t eat dessert. Are you really masochistic?
No, no! I just came in thinking I wanted to be a math major. Calculus was like, my thing in high school. But I have other majors, too: Asian studies and econ.
You’re a triple major?
You are a masochist!
But I don’t like to tell people that. I feel like people will think, “You must take a bajillion classes and have no life and no friends.” I mean, yes, I take a lot of classes, but I get out and do stuff. And Asian studies was an accident!
What’s your favorite Chinese phrase?
Hmm … well, I don’t actually speak Chinese that well. But I have a friend who always says, “Wo shi bai ren. I’m a white man.” But my friends call me racially ambiguous, so I’m not sure if I can say that.
What ethnicity are you?
My parents actually immigrated here from the Philippines in the late ’80s. I get a lot of questions about it. I work at the elementary school, and one of the kid’s moms used to ask her son, “Oh, are you hanging out with that Hispanic guy today?” [laughs].
How do you like working with the children?
Oh my gosh, I love the children! I’ve been working there since freshman year. I started out in a fifth grade class. But the kids I started working with as fifth graders are now seventh graders. They have cell phones and stuff. So last year they kind of finagled my cell phone number out of me, and now we text each other all the time.
What do they text you about?
Yesterday I had a midterm at 1:10. I was free all Thursday and Friday morning to study for this test. But Thursday morning one of my kids calls me and says he wants to hang out. So I spent pretty much the entire day hanging out with him. So Friday, I was like, I’m waking up early, going to Tunnel City and then I’m gonna start studying. Literally the second I walk out of Tunnel City I get a text message from a kid that says, “I’m in Paresky by myself. Let’s hang out.” I was like, “Ok!”
That’s so sweet! Where do you hang out with a 12-year-old?
The kids love the basement of Paresky. They think it’s the coolest thing ever. I’m surprised you haven’t seen them.
Actually, one of them hit on me the other day. It was so cute! He was like, “Are you running from the cops? Because you just stole my heart.”
[He laughs.] I’ve taught them so well. They love to compare their pickup lines. One of their favorites is, “How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice!” I was like, “Good one. Definitely top five.” Looks like they were practicing on you!
Aside from super-smooth pickup lines, what do you teach them?
Well, I always go for math class. I work with the high-level math group. But I feel like they won’t listen to me unless they see me as a friend. So I always try to go to lunch and recess. It’s my goal in life to make the guys and the girls sit together in the fifth grade cafeteria.
You sing, too, right?
Yeah, but not until my senior year of high school. Like every other Asian child, it’s like I was born and handed a piano and another instrument. So I played that and the alto sax with the orchestra and the band. But when the singers would sing, I realized that I could actually sing with them.
Who’s your musical inspiration?
Sometimes my friends tell me I’m like Aretha Franklin except in a tiny Asian man. I would love to be Aretha or Jennifer Hudson. If I could be reborn as Jennifer Hudson, that would be amazing. I think I’m kinda soulful. But I did musical theater in high school, so sometimes my voice gets this theater-like vibrato.
Speaking of high school, what was the pre-Williams Patrick like?
Big and fat. [He laughs.] High school was weird for me. Freshman year I wanted to be emo. But sophomore year some guys were like, what are you doing? Sophomore and junior year … I guess I was just fun. I worked really hard, but so did everyone there. It was an all-boys Jesuit school in Manhattan.
What do you want to do after college?
Everyone tells me that I should be a teacher. And I love working with kids. But thinking practically, I want a family and stuff …
And teachers are just drug-addicted vagabonds.
No! [He laughs.] But my ideal life plan would be to get an econ-related job, make tons of money for five years and then teach for the rest of my life.
Is there anything people at here don’t know about you?
Well, I’m surprised you haven’t asked me about the birthday thing already. I know everyone’s birthday.
[Amazed and disbelieving, I click through Facebook and quiz him on our mutual friends – he gets them all right.]
Is there ever pressure on you to be “the birthday guy?”
Well, in high school, I knew my best friend’s family’s birthdays. The day before his mom’s birthday, I was like ‘Dude, you know your mom’s birthday is really soon, right?” He was like “Whoa! I totally forgot!” Thankfully I reminded him. Yeah, I’m so weird.
Would you fit in at Williams if you weren’t weird?
No. There are no normal people here. That’s why I love it.