rodrigo alberto vásquez posada

University: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Major: Bachelor’s in Mathematics and Computer Science
Minor: Political Science
Concentration: International Development
Languages: Spanish
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Biography: My name is Rodrigo Alberto Vásquez Posada, born and raised in the small mostly agricultural municipality of San Ignacio, in northern El Salvador in Central America, where I lived until high school. I was born to a farmer and a retired elementary/middle school teacher, which meant I was taught to and used to work the land daily. In 4th grade I was selected through the National Math Olympiad of El Salvador to join Programa Jovenes Talento (PJT, Talented Youth Program, a government-funded science program parallel to regular school). PJT nourished my biggest passion, which is math, as well as my vocation to teach and my constant desire to help when and however I can. Through its classes, teachers and guidance, the program has also helped me to define what I want to be in the future.

In high school, I used to be busy 5 am through 9 pm Monday through Friday, attend Olympic math trainings all day on Saturday, and enter the boarding school Sunday afternoon. I started learning English in a college nearby, trained in volleyball, and in table tennis at the National Federation, got the highest GPA in my grade and the highest PAES score of my high school. While at PJT, I represented my country in around 10 international Olympiads, earning among others, the second bronze medal in an International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO Brazil 2017) for my country. I then became an instructor of the Olympic group, and worked as main designer of the National Math Olympiad for 8th grade.

Based on the enormous impact that it has on its students, I took PJT as one of the greatest tools I could use to positively impact some very capable student’s lives in the short-term, and, in the long-term, to enhance the whole community’s aspirations and quality of living. There I took the initiative to spread the word about the program in local middle schools and high schools. I prepared materials aligned with the most recurrent topics by solving all the National Math Olympiads myself, and provided them for free to students that were interested after my visits to their institutions. That experience was one of the first times I appreciated the impact one’s actions may do on others’ lives, and felt the satisfaction of helping others to achieve their goals. This was also the first time that I realized that I liked teaching, and later the program gave me other opportunities to see this.

I moved to the capital, leaving my parents in my hometown, to work in a call center during the week and at PJT on the weekends. I used the money to pay for standardized tests like TOEFL, my application to two universities (as many as I could afford), and the VISA application and flight when I got accepted into MIT.

I enjoy dancing salsa and bachata; playing table tennis, soccer, volleyball, and basketball; hiking; swimming and rock climbing. At MIT I joined an acapella group that performs at community shelters and hospitals (Singing for Service), I serve as the Wellness Chair of my dorm, and as a member of the advisory board of the First Generation Program.

I am currently majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science, and aim to get a minor in Political Science and a concentration in International Development. I want to use this knowledge to improve El Salvador’s access to education, science and technology--and work on recovering the hope and involvement on democracy and politics that most Salvadorians have lost.