In Loving Memory of Arielle Aney (‘20): January 25, 2002–March 23, 2023
The Spectator honors the life of alumna Arielle Aney (‘20), who recently passed away from colorectal cancer.
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Stuyvesant alumna Arielle Justine Aney (‘20), a record-breaking Public School Athletic League (PSAL) swimmer, lost her fight to colorectal cancer on March 23, 2023. She was 21 years old. Arielle was recently laid to rest following an April 15 funeral service at Christ & St. Stephen’s Church. Her calming presence brought joy to all those who knew her, and she will be greatly missed.
Born on January 25, 2002, Arielle developed a love for swimming at a young age. She began swimming competitively at only seven years old. It was one of her greatest passions, and she spent countless hours pushing herself to her limits in the pool. “[Swimming is] just my thing. When I’m in the pool, I just go as hard as I can and just focus on what I’m doing,” Arielle said in an August 2020 interview with Spectrum News NY1 after she was named an NY1 Scholar Athlete. “At the end of the day, that’s the only thing I can control.”
Arielle experienced much change throughout her teenage years but maintained her signature kindness and quiet confidence. Her family moved to Singapore while she was in sixth grade and later moved again to Australia. Through it all, Arielle’s commitment to swimming remained steadfast; she became one with the pool in each of her new homes. Arielle returned to New York City and began attending Stuyvesant as a freshman, where she formed some of her most meaningful and lasting friendships. She became a member of the Stuyvesant Penguins, whilst also competing with the 92Y Flying Dolphins.
While Arielle was distinguished on both her school and club teams, she loved the sense of community she found on the Stuyvesant team. “One of my favorite things about swimming [in high school] is the team aspect,” Arielle said. “The best way to make sure a team gets better is to lift everyone up and make sure you’re all working to the same goal. There’s something wonderful about that. I think it makes you work just a little bit harder.” This ideology was one she always emulated. Arielle would volunteer to swim in any event for the good of the team, even if it was outside of her specialty. She was always willing to give her teammates pointers, staying after practice to help them perfect their form. Most importantly, though she contributed greatly to the team’s wins, she always shifted the attention away from her personal successes and toward their collective achievements.
As a testament to her immense generosity, Arielle also used her swimming experience as a way to give back to the community, volunteering at Elite Pools to coach toddlers and the elderly. This selflessness was felt by all who knew her; whether by lending a listening ear or offering an encouraging grin, Arielle did her best to uplift the people she cared about. She was the type of person who smiled and greeted even those she barely knew—someone who created connections everywhere and with everyone she met.
Arielle also had an extremely impressive swimming career. She was named Stuyvesant “Rookie of the Year” and won “Most Valuable Player” two years in a row. At the end of her Stuyvesant career, Arielle became the co-recipient of the PSAL “Francine Schnarr Memorial Award for Outstanding Senior Swimmer” and was also recruited to swim at Carnegie Mellon University. However, she was diagnosed before she had the chance to compete for Carnegie Mellon and was forced to take medical leave from college shortly afterward.
Along with swimming, Arielle had many other interests. She was an avid artist who enjoyed sketching and drew inspiration from her favorite animes. She was also a prolific pianist, with a strong musical sensibility from a young age. She participated in the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, performing at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. She was a part of her school choirs in both Singapore and Australia and continued to pursue music at Stuyvesant, showcasing her talent in musical performances throughout her high school career. She found travel fascinating and had a love for all things Japanese, from the language to the food to anime. She was also greatly interested in chemistry—AP Chemistry was her favorite Stuyvesant course, and her listed major at Carnegie Mellon was Chemistry. Though she was never able to attend Carnegie Mellon in person, she maintained a fascination with college life, fantasizing about one day returning to campus.
Arielle was undeniably multitalented, and she poured all her energy into the things that brought her joy. However, she remained humble despite her many accomplishments; Arielle’s characteristic modesty and team player spirit memorialize her as someone who was always trying to shift the spotlight away from herself and onto the people she cared about.
Even throughout her illness, Arielle’s kindhearted nature remained constant. When she became confined to her bed, she spent hours and hours with loved ones, inquiring about their lives with investment and passion that made them feel seen. At a time when everyone was worrying about how she was feeling, it seemed that all she could think about was how they were feeling. Within her swim teams in and outside of Stuyvesant, her schools, and amongst her family and friends, Arielle has left behind a beautiful legacy of kindness. She was a pillar of the Stuyvesant community, and her absence will be felt deeply by all those who knew and loved her.
Arielle’s parents, Christopher and Jenelle Aney, would like to raise awareness among young people about the risks and dangers of Young Onset Colorectal Cancer, a disease that is increasingly prevalent in the United States. They have initiated a charitable foundation in her honor to support research aimed at preventing and curing Young Onset Colorectal Cancer. To donate, please visit https://gofund.me/4994c42d.