Andrew Almazan * Child prodigy * Mexico

A prodigy works to aid others in Mexico

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Read more here: 
http://www.sacbee.com/2012/03/11/4328551/a-prodigy-works-to-aid-others.html#storylink=cpy Published: Sunday, Mar. 11, 2012 – 5:08 am
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MEXICO CITY — The director of child psychology at the Center for the Attention to Talent is a child himself: 17-year-old Andrew Almazan, a prodigy who was reading Shakespeare and Cervantes at age 6.
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Almazan, sitting at his desk at the education center he co-founded with his parents, is a tall teenager who speaks rapidly, mounting phrase on phrase.
His astounding ability to absorb and process information was apparent as he began recalling his earliest years, when he breezed through the standard subject materials of Mexico’s education system.

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“Since I was 4 years old, I was deciding on what career I wanted to study when I became older, because I became aware that people work at something, and if you’re going to work at something all your life, you should enjoy it,” Almazan said.
“I ended up on medicine and psychology.”

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Almazan, born and raised in a middle-class section of Mexico City, earned his psychology degree last year from the Universidad del Valle de Mexico and is working toward a medical degree at the Universidad Panamericana. Both schools, in Mexico’s capital, had to make special accommodations for Almazan’s studies.
In the meantime, he and his family are on a mission to identify and nurture ninos sobredotados, as highly gifted children are known in Mexico, through their private Center for the Attention to Talent, or CEDAT.

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The center says there are 1 million highly gifted children in Mexico and only about 5 percent of them are identified and educated according to their needs. The rest, Almazan and his parents say, are often subjected to bullying or suffer from low self-esteem because of incorrect diagnoses of learning disabilities or psychological problems.
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Almazan developed many of the materials and programs at CEDAT, offering the approximately 200 students who study there supplemental, accelerated courses in literature and the sciences.
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“What he needed was knowledge,” said father Asdrubal Almazan, a doctor, remembering his son’s childhood. “We gave him books, videos, classes in what he was asking for. All he needed was the opportunities to prove what he knew.”
A philosophy at the core of the center, the Almazans said, is one of personal responsibility, a theme not prevalent in the discourse and debate on education reform in Mexico. That might be changing.
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Last month, a documentary film highlighting the shortcomings of the country’s education system led at the box office during its opening weekend, beating out several Oscar-nominated films.
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The film, “De Panzazo,” or “Barely Passing,” examines crumbling facilities, absent teachers and the grip of the powerful teachers union on Mexico’s broken school system. It also emphasizes the lack of parental participation in schools. Tellingly, less than half of young Mexicans manage to finish middle school, the film notes.
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Dunia Anaya, Andrew’s mother, said students and parents should look less to authorities for the best education and instead turn to their households for needed support.
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The educational materials prepared by Mexico’s federal government are not bad, she said, pointing out that her son studied the standard course work at his own pace and learned the materials just fine.
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“That means the problem is not there,” Anaya said. “As parents, we have a great responsibility, because the children are ours. Children naturally want to learn.”
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Andrew Almazan said he worries that many gifted young children in Mexico are falling through the cracks, suffering from isolation, bullying or misunderstanding at the hands of adults. That’s why he is lobbying for a national day for gifted children in Mexico.
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“We’re lacking consciousness at the social level,” Almazan said. “Although we know about the existence of this minority, we need to recognize all the highly gifted children that have come before.
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“We also need to address their emotional needs, because many times, they arrive here already damaged,” the young psychologist said.
“There are many opportunities here in Mexico, in work and in education, we just have to go out and find them.”

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(Hernandez is a news assistant in the Los Angeles Times’ Mexico City bureau.)

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/03/11/4328551/a-prodigy-works-to-aid-others.html#storylink=cpy

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