A Love of Mathematics and Helping Others: Stories of Two New Visions Scholars
Today, we introduce you to graduating seniors Sasha Ortiz Colon and Daniel Vargas.
(At left, Sasha Ortiz Colon with New Dorp's LGBT history month bulletin board)
Sasha Ortiz Colon
“I used to think math was straightforward, but after calculus I know there is so much more. I’m excited to see what’s out there. I’m excited for the journey.”
Sasha Ortiz Colon, salutatorian of Staten Island’s New Dorp High School, is one of those lucky young people whose future career path revealed itself early on.
“Since the 7th grade I knew I wanted to go into teaching mathematics,” she says.
Sasha, a varsity soccer player, has always had a passion for teaching. “When my nephew was younger, I’d always play teacher with him. I even gave him homework and tests.”
She credits her grandmother, who passed away when Sasha was 13, for inspiring her towards a service profession. “I want to pass on the values she taught me, as a caregiver and teacher.”
Her passion for math led her to take the most rigorous coursework possible. She took AP Calculus AB in 11th grade, allowing her to take its subsequent course, Calculus BC, as an independent study in 12th grade.
She is motivated to help out her fellow students, who sometimes struggle in math and science. “I have a desire to help people and make them understand. I think I got most of that from my grandmother, because she was a very kind and considerate person.”
Sasha’s interest in helping others has grown in other ways, too. Her junior year, she re-instated a Gay-Straight Alliance at New Dorp, to fill what she saw as a critical need. “I felt there needed to be a place where people could discuss LGBT issues.”
As the group’s founder, she created an LGBT bulletin board, depicting important moments people in gay history for LGBT history month. She also organized her school’s participation in the National Day of Silence.
“You take a vow to support anti-gay bullying, for all of those people who can’t speak up or are afraid to speak up for themselves. We have 380 staff and students sign up and take a vow. I was honestly expecting 50 at most. It was a great achievement.”
“Always try to be the best you can be, but don’t try to be better than others—outdo yourself, not others.”
When Daniel does his best, not only does he outdo his peers when it comes to math but he outdoes himself, becoming more and more of a math whiz every day.
Described by his a high school teacher as “the most gifted mathematics student taught in 22 years,” Daniel maintained a 100% average in AP calculus and earned perfect scores on both SAT math subject tests.
“I’ve always been interested in math, said Daniel, who is a member of his school’s math club and a math peer tutor. “I started off liking puzzles and it went from puzzles to math.”
With a knack for solving things, Daniel’s math prowess extends to solving Rubik’s cubes, which he can do in under 60 seconds, and mastering the game of chess.
“Chess is all about positioning,” he says. “It’s kind of abstract, and is not a direct correlation because chess is more like life, about making a choice.”
Daniel has chosen Macaulay Honors College at CUNY where he hopes to pursue a degree in either computer science or engineering to feed his passion for programming.
Using his graphing calculator, he has already created close to a dozen math games that perform various functions including dividing fractions and solving algebraic equations with the click of a button.
Some of his other hobbies include playing the guitar, clarinet and piano, which he also looks forward to improving upon during his college years.