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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Perseverance prevails

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Photo by Courtesy of Zack Hillard

Visualization senior Zack Hillard‘s friends surprised him with the money to pay for his Aggie Ring, which he could not afford. 

For many students, the Aggie Ring represents their hard work and dedication to their studies at Texas A&M, and it’s a constant reminder of their connection to the Aggie Network. However, for one student, it serves as a symbol of something else — friendship always prevails.
After his close-knit group of friends found out visualization senior Zack Hillard could not afford to order his Aggie Ring, they secretly pooled together money, ensuring Hillard could order his Aggie gold, which he will pick up this Friday, April 8.
Starting as a Blinn TEAM student in 2016, Hillard said he dreamed of becoming a part of the architectural program at A&M, but experienced some setbacks starting his freshman year.
“I had a pretty major accident on the men’s club ultimate team, where I had about a dozen fractures in my face, a week and a half before Thanksgiving,” Hillard said. “A rocky start combined with being out of class for like two weeks right before finals, that first semester was really rough.”
In 2017, Hillard began taking visualization classes, quickly making friends. After getting into A&M as a full-time student in spring 2018, Hillard said he faced difficult math classes and had trouble acquiring an internship, which is required for visualization majors, eventually earning one that would be canceled due to COVID-19.
“As it stretched on, funds got tighter,” Hillard said. “I’ve had to take out a couple loans to help pay for stuff and funds that were meant for more special things like my ring, [and I] had to make decisions really early in the semester, pretty close to the deadline to order a ring, before I graduate, had to make that hard decision to put that toward part of tuition instead of getting the ring.”
Hillard and his friends have stayed connected via Discord, and when they found out he was not going to be able to get his Aggie Ring, they secretly met to raise funds on his behalf, Cecilia Gonzalez, Class of 2020, said.
“Immediately, a bunch of us were really upset for him, because Zack [Hillard] is just a really great guy and a great friend. He’s one of the hardest workers out of all of us. He was always somebody who was staying up super late in the studio, working on his projects and even helping others with their projects, helping people figure out, problem solve and really helping everyone to make the best projects that they could make,” Gonzalez said. “Even outside of the studio, he’s just a great friend. He actually volunteered to shave his head in solidarity with me when I was going through chemo a couple years ago.”
To surprise Hillard, Rogelio Hernandez, Class of 2020, said he asked Hillard to jump on a video call on Discord to help him learn a program. During the call, their entire friend group joined to surprise Hillard and present him with the money to order his ring.
“Everybody was pretty on board from the start. We set a goal initially to just see how much we could raise, a few $100 to see if we could help them out with it and just give them the money,” Hernandez said. “But as soon as we did it, and we kind of set a date for it for him to be able to buy the ring, that we exceeded that goal.”
With his ring pickup day quickly approaching, Hillard said the added surprise of the story behind his ring makes it even more meaningful.
“[Getting my Aggie Ring] was already going to be really special, considering how much I have had to go through to get through my undergrad and getting to experience it with them has made it really, really special. I would say a large part of why I’m still here is because of their friendship and the help that they’ve given me through the years,” Hillard said. “The fact that every time I look down at my hand and see something that they got for me is going to make it all the more special.”
Hernandez said he could not think of a better person to have the honor of helping and is thankful for everything Hillard has done for himself and their friend group.
“He is super deserving. He has a bunch of Aggie Spirit, more than anyone else I know,” Hernandez said. “He’s just one of the most resilient people I know, and even when he’s going through it, he’s just so helpful to everybody around them and he’s always wanting to help other people and give back, so it just felt right.”
Beyond a symbol of their Aggie ties, Gonzalez said she believes the Aggie Ring also represents their friend group’s story.
“The Aggie Ring really just symbolizes all of those years that we got to spend together,” Gonzalez said. “In visualization, I think you’ve kind of get really, really close with all of your classmates because you spend all of these sleepless nights in the studio together working on your projects and you form really close bonds.
“The Aggie Ring really is the fruit of our labors and symbolizes all of those sleepless studio nights that we spent learning and building our friendships. Being able to help [Hillard] get his ring, it’s kind of like the cherry on top of our friendship story.”
To top off the excitement, Hillard said his sister will also receive her ring, and the two will get to experience the moment together and dunk their rings together at their Despicable Me themed dunk celebration.
As he wears his Aggie gold on his finger daily, Hillard said it will always serve as a reminder of the power of hard work and great friends.
“It’s gonna be a reminder that hard work pays off and that there’s always a good reward for hard work, even if it seems really far off and far away,” Hillard said. “Also that no matter what, if you’re not able to pull something off yourself, a good set of friends are always going to be able to help you get through it.”

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