Tuesday, May 7, 2019

New opportunities for Cuyamaca College student Armando Arevalo

Armando Arevalo
Armando Arevalo would be the first to tell you he wasn’t much into studying while in high school. He came to Cuyamaca College nearly four years ago mostly to take a few music classes.Everything changed when he signed up for a course in physics.

“It made me think like no other class had made me think before. It made me think a lot,” Arevalo said. “It helped me make sense of the world. I wanted to learn more about it. A lot more about it.”Arevalo is getting his wish. The Chula Vista resident graduates in June with a grade point average just one “B” shy of a 4.0 and transfers to UC Berkeley this fall. His goal: becoming a theoretical physicist steeped in research discovering why the universe works the way it does. 

Physics Professor Miriam Simpson isn’t surprised. She detailed how Arevalo has solved every problem in every textbook in the Physics Department, including upper-division texts used at the university level. “I told him, ‘you kind of have to transfer now because I’m running out of stuff to give you.’”
It has been a journey. 
Born and raised in Chula Vista, Arevalo suffered from a short attention span and failed too many courses at Chula Vista High School, his time preoccupied with skateboarding, guitar, and drawing. “I had too much energy,” he said. “I couldn’t sit down and focus.”
He switched gears and attended Palomar (Alternative) High School instead. “Alternative school was good because I was able to work at my own pace, and I sped through everything and graduated a year early after being behind by a year,” he said, noting he also became intrigued with mathematics, which quickly became his favorite subject. 
But Arevalo’s journey was just beginning. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent several years trying to manage and make sense of the disease. Coming to Cuyamaca was part of his recovery.
“I didn’t come here to be a serious student,” Arevalo said. “But I got all A’s and B’s in my first year and started getting influenced by students who were serious about school.” Inspired by his love of mathematics, Arevalo opted to major in civil engineering. His life was changed when he took a required physics class. Physics and mathematics, he said, occupy most of his free time. He’s already begun reading the texts for classes he’ll be taking at Cal. 
Simpson says one particular incident illustrates Arevalo’s relentlessness. “He borrowed a new textbook I had for a while, and when he returns it, it has a bunch of sticky notes on the pages detailing how some of the answers to the problems were wrong and how I might want to let the publisher want to know.”
“I think,” Simpson said, “he’s read more of that textbook than I have.”
Arevalo says he will always be grateful for what he found at Cuyamaca College.
“Cuyamaca provided me an opportunity,” he said. “An opportunity to leave my old self behind and become someone new. And it opened the door that led me to physics.”