• Route: Sierra
  • Ride Year: 2024
  • Hometown: San Antonio, TX

About: Hello and welcome to my profile! My name is Aileen and I am a second year neuroscience major from San Antonio, TX. I am currently working on a Turkish minor, and as an aspiring physician, I plan on attending medical school after completing my degree. In my free time, I enjoy exploring different coffee shops around Austin, crocheting, and taking photos (film and digital). If you or someone you know would like me to ride for them, please email me at, I would love to learn more about you!

Why I Ride

When I think about the people I care for most, I am instantly flooded with all the memories of my friends and family. Their beautiful smiles, kind voices, and sense of humor are all traits I can’t help but picture. However, something that also comes to mind is the individual and collective obstacles we have faced, many of which relate to health. Chronic health conditions such as cancer have imposed significant challenges on the wonderful people in my life.

Growing up, every weekend my family would meet up with my relatives at my grandparents’ house, where we would eat dinner, talk about our days, and share laughs. At these gatherings, without fail, I always knew I could expect to see one of two things: my grandpa sitting in his favorite recliner watching a show or enjoying a cup of coffee. On special days, I would find my grandpa outside selling “raspas” in the Texas heat or sitting at the kitchen table cracking open pecans while planning his next fishing trip. My grandpa loved fishing; it was no doubt his favorite hobby. I remember the early mornings in the summer when we would go fishing as a family and I would listen to all the interesting stories he had to share, like the time he accidentally caught a pelican. Sometimes we would simply just enjoy the peace of sitting together and watching the water. My grandpa was a kindhearted, selfless, and strong individual. As a first-generation American, family meant everything to him, and he dedicated his life to his community and those he loved. When my grandpa was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2013, it significantly changed the course of both his and our family’s lives. However, regardless of how difficult the conditions with his health became, my grandpa always had a smile on his face and continued to be a loving and supportive figure in our family until his passing in 2015.

On those same weekends, I would also find myself enjoying the company of my hilarious and caring aunt or “tia.” Like her father, she too is a strong individual and shares his generous spirit. Our family likes to tease that terrible cooking habits and playing bingo are trademarks of her personality, but we all know that “loving” and “compassionate” are her true descriptors. My Tia has also faced significant health issues that have impacted her life. She is a survivor of thyroid cancer and requires other medical devices to maintain her health due to Lupus. However, today she continues to live cancer free and brings joy into any room she’s in. I ride for my Tia Longie, and my grandfather, Pedro Vela.

I also ride for my high school chemistry teacher, who is a strong advocate in the fight against cancer, and her mother, whom she lost to pancreatic cancer. My high school chemistry teacher has been one of the most influential people in my academic career. I was initially inspired by her enthusiasm and love for science to pursue my interests in the field. She has been one of my biggest supporters, and although I did not have the opportunity to meet her mother, I know from the kind words that she has shared about her that she was truly a beautiful person.

As a STEM major, I am always learning about the scientific mechanisms behind disease and how it affects the body. However, one of the important aspects that I find is lost in science is the person or people affected by these illnesses. The stories we share and the memories we keep serve as reminders that our loved ones were much more than a diagnosis. Cancer affects a significant amount of people around the world each year, and I want to be able to put forth my best efforts to both help find a cure and support families through their difficult journey. Cancer is persistent and always bouncing back. However, people are just as resilient.

One of my personal life goals is to make an impact on communities nationally. As a member of Texas 4000, I want to be able to persevere through this journey alongside passionate peers who are united in the fight against cancer. By traveling across the United States to serve communities and spread knowledge, I know that I will be able to advance in my goals and impact.

People are amazing, and I am fortunate to have met so many inspiring individuals thus far. This upcoming ride year, I too would like to be inspiring for my family, friends, and fellow teammates. I ride for my grandfather, aunt, my high school chemistry teacher and her mother, my T4K teammates, those currently in remission, cancer survivors, individuals who have or may receive a cancer diagnosis, and YOU.

To Alaska and back,