Argentine of humble origins now a finalist for global student award

By Javier Castro Bugarin

Buenos Aires, Sep 16 (EFE).- All of Nicolas Monzon’s memories revolve around mathematics.

He recalls walking the streets in his home town of Villa La Florida, south of the Argentine capital, and counting everything: pedestrians, rows of trees, windows of buildings and the number of blocks between point A and point B.

His love of learning later made him one of the best students at his school. And now at age 25 he is among the 10 finalists for the Global Student Prize 2022, a contest organized by and the Varkey Foundation that offers a $100,000 award to an exceptional student who makes a real impact on learning, the lives of his/her peers and the broader society.

A computer engineering, mathematical sciences and physical science student, he said in an interview with Efe that education has opened doors for him and broadened his horizons, which had been very limited due to his humble origins.

“Education sets you free. When you have an education, you’re generally not going to let people fool you,” he said from the Varkey Foundation’s headquarters in the Argentine capital.

Monzon said his journey to academic excellence was propelled by a math book his grandmother gave him.

Titled “Curso de Orientacion Escolar,” it was filled with challenging exercises, most of which he did not understand. But rather than discouraging him, the text only motivated him to keep learning.

“The book allowed me to stay ahead of my coursework. So that instead of having to be focused on copying things down or memorizing certain things, I already had that process down and I could enjoy myself in the classroom. It was the change that allowed me to have a deeper understanding of mathematics,” he said.

Monzon said he did not realize until his last year of high school that he could continue studying mathematics at university, which for him represented a place full of possibilities but also an entirely unknown world.

“When you don’t have the resources, studying at university is a leap of faith,” Monzon said, adding that he could always count on the support of his father (a construction worker), mother (a worker at a barter fair) and the rest of his family.

With the help of the non-governmental organization Jovenes en Accion (Youth in Action), Monzon applied for a scholarship to study computer engineering at the private, Buenos Aires-based Argentine University of Enterprise (UADE).

He later enrolled in two other programs of study – mathematical sciences and physical science – at the prestigious University of Buenos Aires.

Additionally, during his third year of computer engineering studies, he and several fellow students founded Magnetar, a startup that was launched with a mission to create apps that have a positive impact on society.

Over time, that business was transformed into a software developer.

Monzon has a crystal clear vision for his future: after graduating from university, he plans to obtain a doctorate degree and become a scientist while also further growing his business.

“I want to create a company that gives me the economic stability for when I want to do (scientific research). My goals with science, obviously, are to improve people’s quality of life. And with the startup, I’d like to help my family so they have a better quality of life,” he said.

Monzon said his nomination for the Global Student Prize, which will be awarded next week, caught him completely by surprise.

But he said he is grateful for the opportunity to “put the focus once again on education in Argentina.”

“There are different measurements that say we’re technologically behind, and perhaps in that sense we need to promote science in education. That could lead to many more scientists wanting to stay and study here,” he said. EFE

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