AJ Castaldi ’21 had no interest in coming to Immaculata at first. In fact, he had given up on even attending college and did not even want to get out of his car on his first visit to campus. But he was in for a surprise.
“We walked up the path, turned the corner onto back campus and saw the dome,” he recalls. Speechless, he stopped and thought, “I’m going to have to reconsider not attending college.”
Growing up in Boyertown, Pa., AJ “never really found his niche” in high school. He explained that he drifted from first to eighth period every day, did not participate in any extracurricular activities, and lacked a sense of purpose and motivation—at least until he got his first job. Working at Dorney Park, and eventually acquiring a leadership position there, AJ developed a passion for leadership and a confidence in himself that led to his interest in the Immaculata Enactus team.
Enactus, an international organization, pairs college students with corporate sponsors, who enable colleges to compete in regional, national, and global competitions. Immaculata’s Enactus team participates in a number of projects, including fundraising efforts to support the Emilia Wojtyla Shelter—a shelter that helps abused women and children in Bolivia.
AJ first heard about Enactus while he was registering for classes, and he immediately knew he was going to join. However, when it came time for the first meeting, he hesitated.
“I was a scared little freshman,” AJ explains. “I decided to take a nap instead of going to the meeting—but I couldn’t fall asleep.”
He ended up at the first meeting and fell in love with the group. Since then, Enactus has become a large part of AJ’s life. He applied to be a member of the Enactus U.S. student advisory committee, which helps organize Enactus conferences and gives students a voice in decisions.
As a member of this committee, AJ attended the 2018 Enactus World Cup in San Diego, Calif. “As the time grew closer, I prepared my team for my absence, got ahead in my classes, and before I knew it, I was soaring in the air on my way to San Diego,” he says. Flying by himself and not knowing a single person when he got there, this was something he never could have imagined himself doing.
During his stay, AJ worked at registration and checked the various passports of the 37 different international teams; showed the ropes of entrepreneurship to a local high school’s business team, listened to Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State, give an inspiring keynote address, and nearly cried when Canada was announced the winner of the 2018 World Cup. His experience gave him a confidence that, with the help of Enactus students, the United Nations’ goals for sustainable development by 2030 will be achieved. Attending the World Cup gave him hope for a world free of poverty, hunger, discrimination, and injustice.
When he first came to Immaculata, AJ did not feel like he had a place or purpose, but having a team who depended on him and faculty who believed in him gave him a reason to excel. Charlene Fitzwater, Ph.D., business professor and “fearless leader” of the IU Enactus team, comments, “It is a delight to work with AJ and see his enthusiasm to make a difference, engage his fellow teammates, and invite others to the adventure.”
AJ’s journey has certainly been an adventure for him. He is still exploring career options but is confident that his business and marketing education will be applicable when the time comes, as well as his experiences with Enactus.
“Enactus changed my life, both small-scale and large-scale, locally and globally,” AJ explains. “It made me a better person.”