Thursday, April 10

A Young Fil-Am Genius in Florida

I found this interesting article from about a Fil-Am boy who excelled both in academics and sciences in his current home in Florida.

This is very exciting piece proving the best of the Filipinos both here and abroad!


Article body:

A Young Fil-Am Genius in Florida
First Posted 15:46:00 04/07/2008

Florida, US- When her three-year old son started reading signs on stores and restaurants, Gwen de Leon figured it was just logo recognition from watching television.

But when young Nicolas, aka Nico, next read "Questions to ask the pharmacist" from the back of a prescription bag, Gwen and her husband were shocked.

Ten years later, 13-year-old Nico is a seventh-grader at Green Cove Springs Junior High in Jacksonville and is being celebrated for several impressive academic accomplishments.

"He can do whatever he sets his mind to," says Nico's sixth-grade reading teacher Debra Pope at Paterson Elementary School. "The sky is the limit for him."

Nico is Northeast Florida's top speller, poised to represent the region in May at the Scripps National Bee spell-off in Washington, D.C., the first representative from Clay County in more than 30 years of the spelling bee competition.

"Pantomime" was the winning word for Nico in the regional bee last February. The bee went 21 rounds with children in the fifth to eighth grades who had won spelling county bees all over Florida.

Nico won a six-day trip to the national spelling bee in Washington, a new dictionary, a $100 savings bond, a $200 check and a year’s subscription to Brittanica Online Student Edition. His name is now inscribed on a plaque displayed in his school for the year.

One of Clay's brightest

Weeks before the Washington trip, Nico will go to Lakeland, Florida as a Clay County qualifier for the state science fair. In between the contests, he will be honored at Duke University in North Carolina for scoring 31 out of 36 in the ACT college entrance exam, topping 99 percent of test takers, including high school students, in Florida and 98 percent in the U.S.

Proudly cheering him on, former teachers say they adore the quiet, self-driven, disciplined and friendly child considered one of Clay County's brightest students.

Shy and introspective, Nico says he's not sure he likes all the attention. He received a standing ovation at a recent School Board meeting where the chairperson Carol Studdard presented him with a suitcase for his spring travels.

"It's like meeting my match, so to speak," says Nico's science teacher Howard Katz, who has welcomed Nico's thoughtful challenges and observations in class.

For his science fair project, Nico tested the effectiveness of soup can reflectors to channel a wireless Internet signal. He used a soup can reflector to channel the wireless Internet signal from his living room to the laptop computer in his bedroom and found that a can, cut open and fanned out like a flower, was most effective because it enabled the computer to download files fastest.

Teacher Diane Matthews credits Nico with recovering a valuable document she had lost in her computer, adding that he won both the school-wide spelling bee and the school geography bee last year.

Nico's sixth-grade English teacher at Paterson, Sue Middleton, considers him one of her all-time favorite students."His eyes sparkled, and you could see him absorb lessons. There was never a groan or a moan about assignments. He has a brain that won't quit. He makes you remember why you do this [teaching]."

From the Philippines

Nico's parents, Gwen, a pharmacist, and Ron, a software analyst, moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in the late 1980s. Ron worked for the military at Jacksonville Naval Air Station. Gwen works at Publix in Fleming Island.

Nico is their only child and he’s spent most of his time with his parents, aunts and uncles reading to him. They never baby-talked to him, says his mother.

"I guess we just treated him like an adult. Not sure if that's good or bad," Gwen said, adding that she didn't quite realize how unusual it was for him to read so well at age three. "He was the only child. I never even baby sat. It was never really a conscious thing, nothing on purpose. It's not like we planned to have him reading before kindergarten."

Public librarians tried to discourage the de Leons from checking out particular books for Nico, saying they were over his head, like the first three Harry Potter books he devoured in first grade before moving on to his father's college text books on computers and then adult science fiction novels.

Giftedness shows up early

Tests in kindergarten proved that Nico is gifted and he's been in exceptional education classes ever since.

"I worried he'd be nerdy and bullied and get wedgies," his mother said recently.

"Wedgies?" Nico replied. "Kids don't do wedgies at school. Let's just say I haven't been ostracized at school, but I don't have a ton of friends either." He's not interested in sports, but loves games of strategy. He was on the chess team for a while.

"He's just always been smart. He was never a bratty kid," said Saldajeno. "And this is his year."

Nico’s favorite subject is math and is currently reading science fiction series by Naomi Novik. His favorite movie is Lord of the Rings, his favorite games, Age of Empires and Launchball on PC and Geometry Wars Galaxies on Nintendo DS.

Not surprisingly, this young Fil-American wants to become a web designer.

Rewritten from a report in My Clay Sun, Jacksonville, Fla

Copyright 2008 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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