15-year-old San Antonio mathematician, OLLU graduate assistant – and Chuck Norris

Hannah Guan is a 15-year-old college student who has helped thousands of children better understand math. Nuria Diallo Padro is a graduate assistant who helped hundreds of low-income families when the February freeze hit.

Both San Antonio residents are honored with the Governor’s Volunteer Awards for their extraordinary accomplishments. At an online ceremony on November 3, Guan will receive the First Lady’s Rising Star Volunteer Award, which recognizes Texans aged 18 and under. Diallo Padro will receive the National Service Make a Difference Award, given to an Americorps member or senior volunteer currently serving in Texas or who has served in Texas for the past three years. Chuck Norris and his wife, Gena, will also be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony.

At the age of 11, Guan founded San Antonio Math Include (SaMi), a nonprofit organization that aims to increase access to STEM education – science, technology, engineering and math – by running classes free and summer camps as well as by offering scholarships.

“The focus is on math, but we’re starting to expand into other STEM areas, so we currently have computer science classes like Python, C ++, and Java,” Guan said.

She hopes to add physics, chemistry and biology classes to SaMi’s curriculum.

Diallo Padro, enrolled in the McNair Scholars program at Our Lady of the Lake University, is a newcomer to Alamo City. She was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, moved to the border town of Laredo with her parents at the age of one, and spent most of her childhood on the East Coast. When COVID-19 cases began to escalate in seriousness, she was living in Beltsville, Maryland, with two of her children. The enormity of the crisis gave rise to an internal calculation.

“I felt I had to align my goal and my passions, and the pandemic really reaffirmed that I wanted to pursue social work,” said Diallo Padro.

She began researching related master’s programs and found one she liked at Our Lady of the Lake University because of its “emphasis on working with children and Hispanic families.”

“It’s very rare to find a program that incorporates working with Hispanic clients throughout each course,” said Diallo Padro.

Diallo Padro therefore moved his family across the country to San Antonio to begin her studies at the institution she affectionately calls “OLLU”. When considering her internship options, she realized that “I could do AmeriCorps and do my internship requirements at the same time.” She was assigned to Communities in Schools of San Antonio, a nonprofit organization that supports school-aged children and their families. Sarah Kuntz, AmeriCorps and Community Engagement Coordinator with Communities in Schools, assigned Diallo Padro to Tafolla Middle School, with a large population of non-native English speakers.

“Nuria being bilingual was simply a great choice for the campus as she was able to provide services to these students in English and Spanish as well as really bond with families because… many parents had limited English. Kuntz said.

Between January and June of this year, Diallo Padro worked with around 80 seventh and eighth graders, children from what she describes as predominantly “low-income” neighborhoods. During this time, she focused on improving their “socio-emotional learning” abilities. By meeting the students one-on-one and hosting group sessions, she was able to talk candidly with them about everything from romance to homework to family life.

His investment in the success and happiness of his students transcended campus. When the February frost hit, flooding and cutting off power to many homes in the area, Diallo Padro rose to the challenge. “Taking the lead” in relief efforts, in Kuntz’s words, Diallo Padro compiled a list of resources, raised funds to purchase $ 10 gift cards at HEB, and partnered with the San Food Bank. Antonio and the local school district to organize a mobile pantry that provided hundreds of families with needed supplies.

SaMi de Guan extended its reach far beyond Alamo City in the four years since its inception. It now has 41 national chapters in cities as far away as Sammamish, Washington, and Chappaqua, New York, and around the world, through partnerships with the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth and the Global Group. young people for quality education.

Thousands – 36,000 to be exact – of students have taken advantage of SaMi programming to improve their math skills, according to Guan. One of the reasons for the demand may be the rote or stereotypical nature of general mathematics education.

“In my experience, problem solving skills aren’t really taught in a regular school math curriculum. You are taught to regurgitate formulas and insert numbers, but you don’t really teach you how to get formulas on your own or think outside the box, ”Guan said.

In addition to promoting or streamlining math education, SaMi addresses equity issues, such as the digital divide, the term for learning disparities resulting from unequal access to the Internet. The “Casting Your Future” scholarship is available to low-income students to partially cover the costs of attending a remote summer camp session. In total, SaMi offers $ 12,500 in scholarships per year.

Camp sessions last three weeks and are supervised by university teachers, high school students, and national and regional math competition champions.

“Over the summer I know many students, including me, (experience) this ‘summer slide’, where you go back to school on the first day of school and you don’t remember a thing. the year before, ”Guan said.

A lot can change between her teens and her early twenties, but Guan is certain that she wants to continue fostering appreciation for math among her peers.

“Whenever I teach for SaMi, it’s really gratifying to be able to see the faces of the students light up whenever they are able to solve a really difficult problem or whenever they wonder why a formula has. makes sense, ”she said. .

She plans to study math at university with the ultimate goal of becoming a teacher and returning to San Antonio to teach.

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