Participating in Math Olympiads is an impressive enough accomplishment, but Caio Lopes was not content enough with just taking part in the system. In fact, he and some of his friends saw flaws with how it operated, and so they set out to create an olympiad with a completely different structure that would benefit students more.
“My school is one of six private schools in Pindamonhangaba and each one focuses on a different subject, and mine focused on olympiads, though we didn’t like the system of the olympiads as much,” Caio said. “So we thought like, if we don’t like those olympiads that we are participating, let’s create ours, and then we came up to our math teachers to draft the guidelines, to build the tests, to find sponsors and that was the beginning.”
Some of those changes came from an organizational standpoint such as changing the difficulty and size of the competition, but perhaps the most significant difference came in the form of prizes. Whereas the government-run Olympiads handed out medals, Caio and his partner Arthur Sakashita realized having more relevant awards could have a positive impact on more people. In the first year of the OPiM contest, the prizes included a watch, a kindle, and two bikes, the funds of which came via donations, and the second year of the competition netted a one year scholarship at Colégio Emílio Ribas, where Caio attended.
“Those prizes are a lot more interesting than just a medal saying ‘Congrats you are a good student,’” Caio said. “We saw the importance in that because while my peers and I knew the benefits of studying more and doing these types of extracurriculars, we wanted to help motivate students from public schools all over the city to take part in these activities too. Sometimes you need a little push to do these things if you don’t immediately see what it can bring you.”
In that same vein, Caio wanted to continue to push himself to learn more and expand his prospects, eventually stumbling upon LALA when a friend said the bootcamp program was “so him.” Even though he was not accepted to the first bootcamp he applied to, that actually motivated him even further to be a part of the organization and experience the unique environment many of his friends had told him about.
It’s very difficult to determine what happens inside LALA and why it is so amazing, but it is,” Caio said, “So I already had this feeling and when I got rejected I thought ‘Wow, I’m very confident so if they rejected me it is because there’s even more awesome people in there, so I have to apply again and make it in, and once I made it LALA was just as amazing as my friend had described to me.”
One moment in particular stood out in Caio’s São Paulo bootcamp experience. So much so that it has reverberated among the LALA staff, reminding the community of the beautiful fruit that can result from hard work.
LALA’s CEO, Diego Ontaneda, was in attendance at the bootcamp and approached Caio during one of the final activities. Knowing that Caio put significant effort not only into being accepted but also for fundraising and saving up the money to attend, he asked him if it was worth it.
“I told him I would pay double,” Caio said. “That if they suddenly tripled the price I would spend half a year working as hard as I needed to raise the money and come back. I think it was one of the best moments of my life. It was like when you know a teacher well but you think maybe they don’t even know your name, and all of a sudden he’s recognizing all my work and all my effort, and validating the experience, and it was just one of the best feelings ever.”
At that point, Caio had officially drank from the LALA fountain, and would go on to become one of its strongest proponents just like his friends that experienced it before him and urged him to apply. There was no question after that bootcamp that Caio and LALA would have a lasting relationship, and it has continued as he joined the first ever Academy cohort, and nobody doubts that it will continue to blossom long after that concludes as well.