“LALA gives you clarity. It makes you deeply realize who you are. Through LALA, I was able to connect lots of dots of my own story that, until then, I had not connected, but which unconsciously were there all along.”
Guilherme’s interest in holistic education grew from a shocking event when he was seventeen. Thanks to his outstanding performance in physics olympiads, he had recently been offered a full-scholarship to a prestigious private school, with a unique chance to become an international physics medalist. As he was riding the public bus back from a meeting at that school, the bus got hijacked. All the passengers were robbed at gunpoint. At once, Guilherme felt terror and something else. After hearing a middle-aged woman whispering prayers next to him, he instinctively put his hand over hers. In that moment, he realized that they shared a feeling: the need to remain alive. This “shared condition”, as he calls it, was so strong to shake off any of their differences in age, background, and religion and promote a truthful deep connection.
Recognizing other shared conditions in his communities, Guilherme decided that he wanted to lead the change from the inside out. He rejected the private school’s scholarship offer and dug his nails into his public high school: the Federal Institute of São Paulo (IFSP). Instead of becoming an international physics medalist, he then became a teacher. In the next year, he founded “Preparatório Avançado de Física” — an after-school physics course that helped dozens of students win unprecedented medals at national olympiads and get into the most prestigious universities in Brazil. Taking a strengths-based approach, Guilherme also started OrgulhoFederal — a platform to celebrate the talent and achievements of students within the network of technical-public schools across Brazil called Institutos Federais.
When Guilherme participated at the finals of the scientific olympiads, he gets emotional as he recalls arriving at the test center with his coordinator in a small car, while huge buses with the logos of elite private schools dropped-off hoards of their students. “We had reached a place that was never meant for us.”
And by “that place,” Guilherme is not talking just about scientific competitions. When asked “what are you most passionate about in this moment?” he answers “Perhaps about… Brazil. But I don’t mean it in a clichéd sense. I am passionate about finding what the ‘underlying shared conditions’ of my nation are.” He explains, “you know, I’ve had the opportunity to see both sides of the coin,” referring not only to his encounters with the public and private education systems, but to his community. Coming from public schools, he recalls examples of old colleagues who were murdered by the police or arrested due to involvement with criminal organizations.
“To be able to connect with this condition that exists both on this side, and on that other side of this country called Brazil… and to be able to shed light on this condition through education… that is what I’m passionate about.”
Guilherme’s dream is to do for Brazil what he has been doing with his high school. In other words, to use this idea of “shared condition” to rise together. To rise above a mediocre educational system that is but an “assembly-line of an obsolete economic model”, into a community of engaged, critical, creative and peaceful citizens. Guilherme calls this a “holistic” model of education whose key elements are the spaces to engage with personal interests and the right tools to pursue one’s passions.
That’s what got him where he is and that is what he is creating for others. When Guilherme was 13 years old his Physical Education instructor, Falcão, changed his life. “Soccer was the only option at Physical education classes and, despite my many efforts, I really sucked at it. In one day, I scored an own-goal — as a goalkeeper. From then on, I would be benched at every class.”. This inaptitude soon became a blessing, though. To take advantage of his idleness, he decided to bring old books from home to read. Falcão then started to talk to him. “We talked about everything, from the origin of the universe to Nietzsche’s philosophy. This was the first time I had found a space to talk with someone who could truly understand my interests.” Through this approximation, Falcão later donated him a set of old chemistry high school textbooks that were being thrown out. Guilherme then went on to study it entirely in less than a year. “I’m not very different from my friends… I wasn’t born smart nor in an intellectual family. I just had the privilege to have the space and tools to pursue my passion”.
Nowadays, Guilherme provides the tools and the spaces for others through many initiatives. Currently, he is working as Head of Product at exemplio, a podcast he co-created with LALums Brenda Major and Guilherme Coube from his BLB4 cohort. Also, Guilherme has written O Guia Definitivo Para Entender Física — an e-book he published at the culmination of two-years teaching physics. He is currently taking a gap-year to apply to universities abroad with the support of a scholarship at Crimson Education, an opportunity that he credits Marcelo, LALA’s Regional Director, for telling him about it. His long-term goal is to study computer science and use technology as a tool to scale holistic education in Brazil. Next February, at 20 years old, Guilherme will attend LALA’s pilot Academy in Medellín, Colombia.
“Some people tell me, ‘you’re 20 years old, you’re not in college… aren’t you a bit late?’ And I tell them ‘I’m not 2 or 3 years late. I’m 200 years early, because I’m getting a hold of opportunities that were never meant for me.” According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it takes approximately 9 generations for a Brazilian person born in poverty to rise up to the middle class. “This is the harsh reality of my country we often overlook. The starting lines for many of us are radically unfair. Because so many opportunities were never meant for people like me, I’ve come to the conclusion that my victories never only belonged to me. They also belong to my family, to the Federal Institute and to Brazil as a whole.”