When it comes down to GPA, classes taken and intelligence, there is little difference between most salutatorians. But Juan Esteller is different from most.
Esteller exhibits many traits that separate him from the crowd. He enjoys reading, running and playing soccer. On top of that, he considers himself to be a “cuber”; he enjoys completing Rubik’s Cubes, as well as spatial puzzles and Sudoku.
“I think [Rubik’s Cubes and puzzles] provide really good entertainment, they help me distract myself and…I really like figuring out how things work and they can get pretty complicated at times, so I find that amusing,” says Esteller.
With a GPA of 5.15 and 11 AP classes, Esteller didn’t necessarily go easy on himself in high school. However, salutatorian was never the goal. If anything, Esteller’s love for learning has been what’s driven him to do so well.
“I didn’t take [AP’s] for the sake of raising my GPA…but I think that I took a genuine interest in the subjects, so I tried to take classes that I would actually enjoy,” he says. “Of course [being at the top of the class] was in the back of my mind throughout high school, but I don’t think that that’s what necessarily drove me. I think what I wanted to do is just perform my best and to learn subjects that I actually enjoyed.”
According to his friends, not only is Esteller smart, but outside of school he’s also fun to be around.
“What a lot of people don’t know about Juan is that outside of school, when he’s just hanging out with people…he’s always the energy in the room,” says Michael Spear, a friend of Esteller’s.
Esteller will be attending Harvard University in the fall but has not yet picked a major. However, he is leaning towards applied mathematics.
“I just think that [Harvard] has a vast amount of resources, and it’d be nice for me to move away and have a little bit more independence,” says Esteller.
Estellar also states that his high school career has helped him become a more driven student. Having the opportunity to set goals and achieve them has helped him become hard-working. He hopes to continue with this trend for the rest of his life.
According to Ms. Mayfield, a math teacher at Leesville, Esteller is one of the best and the brightest students in the school.
“Juan is quite possibly one the most intelligent young men I have ever met, or ever had the pleasure of teaching…he’s just a joy to teach. He’s one of the reasons why I gave up my planning period this year to teach Calculus Three,” says Mayfield.
Throughout high school, Esteller has learned some life lessons in addition to all of the math and science.
“The most important lesson I learned in high school is that things aren’t always fun, but I still need to persist and do my best since they’ll improve in the future,” says Esteller.
In the future, Esteller plans on graduating college and maybe even having his masters degree in four years. As far as his career goes, he’d like to stay in academia, maybe as a professor.
While Esteller clearly has a bright future ahead of him, Mayfield hopes he takes it slow and enjoys life.
“I hope that he enjoys his time in college and that he remembers to slow down and enjoy it as opposed to kind of rushing through to the next level. [He’s] got [his] entire life to be the adult with the job and the profession etcetera, so I hope he does slow down [and] enjoy his time in college,” she says.
Even though being accepted to Harvard and becoming salutatorian are huge accomplishments, Esteller doesn’t want these to be what defines him.
“I just want to be remembered as a person who genuinely loved learning and wanted everybody to learn,” he says.