LFHS senior offered full-ride, chooses Harvard over MIT - Brownsville Herald: Education

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Big-time Decision LFHS senior offered full-ride, chooses Harvard over MIT

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Posted: Monday, April 23, 2018 10:29 pm

Joriam Martinez Parra remembers that he started getting serious about school during the transition from ninth to 10th grade. He set a goal to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Recently the Los Fresnos High School senior has been faced with an enviable choice: Whether to attend Harvard or MIT. Both Ivy League schools offered him a full-ride scholarship. He has committed to Harvard.

“I had a dream of going to MIT — I was told that Harvard was just for lawyers — and from there I involved myself with math clubs and science clubs,” he said last week, adding, “I had somewhat of a talent in these subjects. I always had an interest in the physical world.”

Joriam was first accepted at MIT. Later he received word that Harvard had accepted him and was offering a full-ride scholarship, just as MIT had done.

He said he took his own initiative throughout high school, choosing the classes with the most rigor, signing up for the STEM endorsement and taking mainly classes in science, technology, engineering and math.

When he graduates later this spring, the transition to university life on the East Coast will turn the page on an unusual progression of circumstances that began 25 years ago in his native Veracruz, Mexico, when his parents Jorge Martinez Badilla and Maria Guadalupe Parra decided to come to the United States.

Neither speaks English. His father came first, then brought his mother and Joriam, who was born in Mexico, from Martinez de la Torre, Veracruz, to Los Fresnos. All have legal status in the United States.

Joriam has attended Los Fresnos schools since kindergarten.

“They said they brought me here to discover what I really wanted and to give me a better environment than what was available in Mexico,” Joriam said.

By the time Joriam was a senior he was ranked seventh in his class at LosFresnosHigh School. Last summer he was one of 80 students across the country accepted into a six-week program for rising seniors in science and engineering. Only 3 percent of students who apply are accepted and he was one of them.

Joriam took courses in chemistry, calculus, physics III, genomics and humanities.

“They were testing us to see if we could handle their college courses. We were given evaluations based on how much we progressed in the class. Mine were very positive. A bunch of my teachers noticed that I had increased my proficiency,” he said.

Doing well in the summer program had a major impact on the decision by first MIT and then Harvard to offer Joriam a full-ride scholarship.

After earning his bachelor’s he plans to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in physics. He plans to study theoretical physics and quantum mechanics with the aim of becoming a professor and doing research.

A second option would be to go to Europe to work on the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful collider. It is the most complex facility ever built and the largest single machine in the world, according to Wikipedia.

For now, though his focus is on Harvard, where school starts in early August. He’ll be choosing his dorm and making other arrangements in late July.

He said his main emotion is astonishment, and secondly, enthusiasm for greater things to come.

He credited LFHS with being “one of the best schools in the Valley” and said it “has provided the opportunity, the classes and mostly the teachers” to achieve his goals.

glong@brownsvilleherald.com

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