Best Student of Nicaragua: Aiming High for Success

In San Rafael del Norte, young student Santos Solon Ubeda was welcomed by his town with a parade of his won to celebrate his academic victory. All the town people were proud of their first gold medal student in the national contest for the best student in Nicaragua. Since his early years in high school, he began to show passion and skills in all of his classes, especially mathematics. Participating in academic contests and winning them became a routine in Santos´s life as he advanced from municipal categories to departmental contests and finally, competing in Managua to become our country’s best student. Because of his performance in studies, he achieved a full scholarship at Keiser University, where he is still keeping his good grades and fulfilling his goal of graduating. Humble, thoughtful and joyful, he remembers some of his experiences and achievements, which seemed to make his eyes fill with pride. A pride that is the product of hard hours of study and dedication. Solon, who affronted along with his family a hard economic situation, had to work from an early age in his family’s land helping with whatever he could. This made him realize how important a good preparation was in order to achieve a great future and career, and light that spark that sometimes we, as student, usually miss. 

Name: Santos Solon Ubeda

Age: 20

Major: Business Administration 

Class Status: Junior

Hometown: San Rafael del Norte, Jinotega

Were you always a good student? What motivated you to keep getting good grades? "Yes, I’ve always been a good student; I wasn’t recognized but I was good.  I loved math since my first year of high school and when I began participating in contests and winning them, I knew that I had a chance to climb high. The problem was that Karen Castro (a friend from his student years in Jinotega and also a full scholarship student at Keiser) beat me for the first place in math almost every time, but that made me want to get better. What really motivated me was the fact that my dad always worked double hard to maintain our family, giving us food, raising us… He didn’t study or even get any diplomas, but he was the one who taught me that studying is really important to secure a good future. During summers, ever since I can remember, he sent us to collect coffee in his coffee plantations and this showed me how we ask for too much sometimes. If one is conscious that money doesn’t grows in trees, your way of thinking changes and you start prioritizing other things. If we know we can find a better life through education, why not commit a hundred percent to it?"

How did you get this wonderful scholarship and how did you feel when they called your name?  "To begin with that experience, we first had to go to the best student of the country contest in Managua (laughs). When I won the departmental contest of best student in Jinotega, I began to prepare myself for the big contest of Managua. That’s when I started to receive big help from many of my teachers.The contest was held on the 12th of August of 2011. It was really crazy but I felt optimistic because I did my best and I expected to win at least the third place. Then the jury started calling names. Third place, second place, which was my biggest aspiration, and nothing; my name wasn’t in between the winners and my chances began to reduce. “There’s nothing else to do”, I even said (laughing). However, when they announced the first place winner, and my name resonated in those speakers, I couldn’t react. I was truly shocked! I went to pick my diploma, and my teacher who accompanied me hugged me and said to me “You see, you made it”, I couldn’t repress my emotions and my eyes began to fill with tears of excitement and satisfaction. When I returned to my town, they had me a great welcoming. I received gifts, a laptop that is still the one I use and take care of, and congratulations from everybody, a caravan just for me; I was famous! (laughing). "

"After that I applied for a Civil engineering career at UNI and spent my time studying for my admission test, which went pretty great as I got an scholarship of which I had to pay 50 dollars per month, but those 50 dollars became really hard to get because of the hard economic situation my family was going through. Living in Managua was expensive; I lived with an aunt that made me pay rent and I had to buy my own food and pay for college. My dad is not a wealthy farmer and he struggles, so I had to spend the least I could. It was really stressful having in mind all of the homework with my economic situation at the same time. Once I finished my first semester, I received a call from the department of education of San Rafael del Norte that I won a full scholarship at Ave Maria University. Although Ave Maria focused in Business Administration, I decided to transfer mainly because of the full scholarship. Here I receive food, a bed and a good English education which is something I had always wished for because I feel that if you want to thrive in this world, you have to be able to communicate in English. Knowing English increases your communication skills in businesses, but still, it was hard at the beginning. My English wasn’t pretty good and I had problems in public speaking. There were times were I felt really frustrated because of this and I felt lonely, but I managed to overcome this and graduate from the language institute in English and here I am, keeping my goals in my mind!"

What are some of your goals and dreams? "Well, one of my dreams is to help my family with our economic situation and for that, I need to study. One of my biggest goals right now is to graduate as soon as possible and get a job to start helping them. Another dream l I intend to keep is to finish my civil engineering career. "

If you had the opportunity to tell something to all of the young students that also aspire to succeed in a bright career, what would you say to them? "I would tell them that the solution for everything is education. As students, we have to engage in what we would like to accomplish; all of our goals and dreams… we need to follow them and have perseverance and faith that we will make it. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”, that’s a quote from Tim Notke that I will always remember."

Photo credits to Ximena Mills.