Cuero High School senior uses love for math and science to earn 9 gold UIL medals
April 6, 2010 at 6:01 p.m.
Updated April 6, 2010 at 11:07 p.m.
CUERO - When Cuero High School senior Nick Gamez was younger, his grandfather used to test his math skills.
During trips to Victoria for karate lessons, he'd give Nick math problems to work.
"That's what sparked my interest in math," Nick said.
Nick took those lessons he learned from grandfather Jasper Quintero as a kindergartner and first-grader and built on them.
In the recently completed District 28-3A University Interscholastic League academic competition, Nick won five individual gold medals and was a member of four first-place teams.
The individual wins came in math, number sense, science, chemistry and physics. The team victories were in cross-examination debate, math, number sense and science. The debate competition was held earlier in the year.
Cuero High School principal Mike Cavanaugh said Nick is believed to be the most decorated student in CHS history, with more than 100 UIL academic medals to his credit.
The regional UIL academic meet will be Saturday, April 24, in Corpus Christi.
Nick goes into the regional meet ranked first in the region in number sense, tied for first in math, and second in science.
Much of Nick's success in UIL competitions have come in math, particularly number sense.
He has only lost twice in number sense competition the last two years and those were at the regional and state meets, he said.
"That's my favorite; that's my best event," he said of the 10-minute, 80-question test that has to be completed mentally with no math done on paper.
With math coming naturally to the 18-year-old who will study chemical engineering at Texas A&M University, he has concentrated his efforts this year in science.
"I've studied science a lot," he said. "I've got a passion to learn more. I think science has become my better subject."
He credits much of his interest in science to teacher Linda Colman, who is also the school district's UIL coordinator.
"She's the only teacher I have had all four years in high school," Nick said. "She's been a big help. She loves science and UIL and I love it, too."
"A lot of days we'll sit there and work on a physics problem for 30 minutes. We just have to grind it out," he said.
Colman said it's no secret why Nick has been successful at UIL competition.
"Nick has gotten to where he is today because he works hard. He has an outrageous work ethic," said Colman, who has been teaching in Cuero for 22 years. "He is always thinking about learning and he's naturally inquisitive."
Colman said Nick might take four or five practice tests a day to keep his skills honed.
She added that Nick's demeanor, too, contributes to his success.
"Nick is intense, but never urgent," she said. "He's laid back and unassuming. He's not in it for the medals or the recognition. He likes to do it and he wants to learn. He challenges himself each time."
She also acknowledges Nick's natural math abilities, but said he has also learned to harness that skill in the science areas.
"He understands that math is a tool, and he uses it to work his chemistry and physics problems," she said.
Cavanaugh is naturally proud of Nick's academic success, but the principal said the senior's achievements are not limited to personal ones.
"The thing I am most proud about Nick is that he is one of our peer tutors, seniors tutoring seniors. Kids who are struggling with the TAKS," Cavanaugh said. "That one little thing a couple of days a week has made a huge difference in a couple of kids."
Nick, who has also excelled as a co-captain on Gobblers football team as an all-district defensive end and offensive lineman, said being a tutor came naturally.
"I love helping people," he said. "They needed math and science and they are my strong suit. It's a chance to help my friends."