What Sets Us Apart
CARIBBEAN BUSINESS: EDUCATION FEATURE
May 17, 2018
TASIS Dorado Class of 2018 Rises Above the Wave
The TASIS Dorado Class of 2018 overcame the challenges of a senior year impacted by Hurricane María with grit and creativity, and they have made their parents, teachers and administrators extremely proud. When they graduate next month, they will celebrate a host of achievements including 100% acceptance to competitive colleges and universities in Puerto Rico, the mainland and abroad, including admission to honors programs such as the UPenn Viper Program and an invitation to Yale University's Directed Studies program. The many scholarships offer included the WashU Annika Rodríguez Scholarship, two USC full-tuition merit scholarships, the Horatio Alger Scholarship and a full merit scholarship to Harvey Mudd. This talented class of 47 also had five students named as Presidential Scholar candidates and one, Cristina M. Trápaga Hacker, was designated the 2018 female Presidential Scholar for Puerto Rico.
The members of the Class of 2018 were fortunate to count on a College Guidance department, headed by College Admissions Counselor Glenda Rivera, that included a new feature this year. The school established the TASIS Dorado Writing Center, with staff Terry Chevako Bava and Susan Fortuño, a writing support system unique in Puerto Rico. Working in tandem, the team gave workshops and individual advice to every senior through the entire process of brainstorming, writing, editing and proofreading the numerous essays required of the applicants. Seniors frequented the writing lab, located in the school library, throughout the first semester to work on application and scholarship essays, practice interviews and write letters, while underclassmen used the Center in the second semester for summer program applications, AP class essay writing practice and more. The positive results clearly speak for themselves!
TASIS Dorado is a private, nonsectarian, coeducational school that has English as its language of instruction and is affiliated with The American School in Switzerland (TASIS) Schools in Europe. Located in the seaside town of Dorado, the modern campus sits on beautiful grounds surrounded by lakes and greenery. Highly qualified faculty are motivated to cultivate a love of learning in the 805 students in PPK through 12th grade. Excellent facilities including classrooms equipped with smartboards; a new STEAM Fab Lab outfitted with robots, 3D printers, laser cutters and more; and a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center allow students to develop to their full potential.
Headmaster Dr. Timothy Howard said, "We are so proud of these students for their remarkable accomplishments. They have high aspirations and go the extra mile to achieve their personal best and give back to the community in so many ways. Our team and the effort they put forth every day is what makes all this possible."
For more information about TASIS Dorado, visit www.tasisdorado.com or call Admissions Director Jovita Casanova at 787-796-0440 Ext. 221 to schedule an appointment.
CRISTINA TRÁPAGA OF DORADO, PUERTO RICO NAMED 2018 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLAR
United States Department of Education
May 8, 2018
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the selection of Cristina Trápaga of Dorado, Puerto Rico, who attends TASIS School in Dorado in Dorado, as a 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholar.
Trápaga is one of 161 outstanding American high school seniors who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship, service, and contribution to school and community. The U.S. Presidential Scholars will be honored for their accomplishments in Washington D.C., from June 24-26.
"I want to congratulate this year's class of Presidential Scholars on their achievement and also thank their parents, teachers and other academic advisors who have helped guide them along the way," said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. "These students have pushed themselves to be the best they can be, and I am certain that devotion will serve them well as they continue their individual learning journeys."
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects honored scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. Of the 3.6 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 5,200 candidates qualified for the 2018 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, and through nominations made by Chief State School Officers, other partner recognition organizations or the National YoungArts Foundation's nationwide YoungArts™ competition.
The 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, and 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in Career and Technical Education.
Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored almost 7,500 of the nation's top-performing students with the prestigious award given to honorees during the annual
ceremony in D.C. The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts. In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.
Since 1983, each U.S. Presidential Scholar has been offered the opportunity to name his or her most influential teacher. Each distinguished teacher is honored with a personal letter from the Secretary of Education.
The teacher chosen for recognition by Trápaga was Denisse Cintrón of TASIS School in Dorado in Dorado, PR.
NOTE TO EDITORS: A complete list of 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars is available at http://www.ed.gov/programs/psp/awards.html.
José del Río Pantoja '14
Cancer Research at Harvard
JOSÉ "Jochi" DEL RÍO PANTOJA, a graduate of TASIS Dorado in 2014 and one of our latest high flyers, is fervently probing the nanoscale mysteries of biochemistry. After weighing up offers to join several Ph.D. programs, he has settled on enjoying a full scholarship at Harvard University. This exciting research challenge tackles the structural role of proteins that cause cancer.
What sparked your interest in biomedical research?
I don't recall a specific instance that started my journey towards biomedical research, but then I have always been fascinated by STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). My overall experience in STEM can be best described as a positive feedback loop: the more I learned about it, the more I wanted to know. I do believe, however, that my infatuation with the chemistry courses and research experiences at Penn State strongly shaped my interest in biomedical research.
Did you think you might go down that path from the outset of your undergraduate studies?
Not really. I started my undergraduate program at Penn State with the idea of becoming a physician but quickly switched to the Eberly College of Science at Penn State to study my current major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. It's been a gratifying journey that has also introduced me to the joys of teaching. I started out as a learning assistant in general and organic chemistry courses and worked up to a position at Penn State Learning as a study group leader in organic chemistry, teaching 100-200 students.
It sounds like you barely had time for anything else!
Well, I'd say it's been a very fulfilling time indeed, also allowing me the privilege to get involved in Alpha Epsilon Delta's Pre-professional Health Honor society, promoting excellence in healthcare. We host speaker events and create community service opportunities and I've become heavily involved, most lately taking on the role of president. In addition, I've benefitted from the honors classes at the Schreyer Honors College, since being admitted there in my sophomore year.
José del Río Pantoja presentation at NYU Langone Health
What were some of your highlights at TASIS Dorado?
There are three highlights that come to my mind. The first is Annie (Galatzán); she was my number one highlight at TASIS Dorado. Whether it was her everlasting smile, wise advice, warm hugs, generous favors or quick ranting sessions, she always found a way of making me feel welcomed and loved. It was a true privilege to have met her.
Then there's Spirit Week. I absolutely loved Spirit Week. From being able to dress according to the theme of the day to all the activities going on during that week, Spirit week was super fun. It certainly resonates as one of my favorite times at TASIS.
And thirdly, there were the French classes with Madame Denisse (Cintrón) and Calculus class with Miss Wanda (Herrans). I LOVED French class with Madame Denisse (Cintrón). She managed to get me so into the course that I even agreed to sing in French for this one play we did in front of the entire student body and parents. It should be noted that I am not the greatest singer. That just goes to show how great a teacher she is. Also, her class enabled me to me to travel abroad to Nîmes, France as part of the TASIS Exchange Program, which is another huge highlight. As for Calculus class with Miss Wanda, she was the first teacher to introduce me to the importance of developing strong soft skills prior to entering college. She was also a friend and really cared about us developing our ability to succeed at learning.
What do you know now that you wish you knew in High School?
I'd say there are five things that, although I learned them during my undergraduate degree, I wish I had known in high school:
1) Only participate in extracurricular activities that you actually enjoy. It is an absolute mistake to do things just because they are résumé boosters. Professional schools and employers can see through that. Most importantly, you jeopardize your college experience and overall happiness.
2) Dumb questions are only dumb if you don't ask them. You will find people that are great at making you feel inferior for asking a question or too many questions. But don't let that get in the way of you understanding the world, regardless of what field you go into.
3) Actively seek to understand what is really going on in the world you live in. I think you have a moral obligation to have an active role in topics that affect the world. Enroll in courses about race, immigration, sexual/gender orientation, world history, and social sciences. Think differently. Research. There are so many things going on right now that you can make a great impact on a micro and even macro scale. Knowledge is your biggest weapon.
4) Check your privilege. Privilege is unearned. It is an invisible system that we are all part of. It is very important to recognize your own privilege in order to recognize those who don't have the same privileges. Had I known this going into college, I would have done a few things slightly differently. Checking and recognizing your privilege enables you to not only succeed in the most fair and conscious manner but also keeps you aware of those who aren't as lucky as you are, whether it's because of their socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, skin color, gender, or whatever. As a consequence, you grow with society.
5) Be utterly proud of your roots. If you decide to go to a school in the United States, you will be tempted to blend into the culture you find there. In high school, I wish I had been more aware of the importance of being proud of my accent, my traditions, and my people. As you dive into "the real world", you owe it to yourself and your people to show the real world the beauties of what shaped you.
Can you tell us a little about your research experiences to date?
I started with research in my sophomore year at Dr. Amie Boal's lab, studying structural biology. We worked on the mechanism and structure of proteins that use metals to catalyze reactions. That led to my first scientific paper, which is undergoing peer review as we speak. Then last summer, I attended a research program at Dr. Shohei Koide's biochemistry and molecular pharmacology laboratory at NYU Lagone Medical Center, where I managed to map the structural landscape of a protein implicated in pancreatic cancer, along with a synthetic antibody created at the Koide laboratory. I gave an oral presentation of that work at the Leadership Alliance National Symposium and spread the word further with a poster at NYU Lagone Health.
Leadership Alliance National Symposium
We congratulate you on starting your Ph.D. at Harvard. What are your goals?
I really am grateful to be able to dedicate myself to science at Harvard and the fellowship covers all five years of the Ph.D. There will be many courses to attend and a lot of training in research. Hopefully, I'll get to teach too! My research goals will focus on the structure-function of proteins and the development of therapeutic strategies.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in a career in biomedical research?
When it comes to going into biomedical research, there are three things that I believe are very important:
1) Find mentors that want to see you succeed. I wouldn't have accomplished half of the things I have if it weren't for my caring mentors. My research mentor at Penn State, Dr. Boal, introduced me to and guided me through the amazing world of chemistry and structural biology. Mentors like her are the ones that train you and connect you to bigger opportunities.
2) Try to get into a research laboratory as soon as possible. The earlier you do so, the experience you gain will either nurture your natural inclination towards the field or make it easier to switch career aspirations early on, resulting in the strongest possible résumé.
3) Sleep, nutrition, exercise, and fun should be priorities. You'd be surprised how easy it is to forget this one.
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