After moving from the Philippines at age 4, Gapuz began Kindergarten in Sparks with a speech impediment that kept him nearly silent in fear of being mocked by his peers. He said certain letters would give him trouble, but conquering his disability has brought out the leader within.
“For years I couldn’t really talk because I was scared of being made fun of,” he said, “But once I could talk I enjoyed making presentations. That experience gave me that voice.”
Gapuz is now the senior class officer, a member of the National Honor Society, the Student Body Vice President and a member of varsity athletes’ Block S club. The 18-year-old spends three days per week at Sparks High and attends a dual-credit class at Truckee Meadows Community College on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Gapuz’s focus as he winds down his final year at Sparks High is highly academic in hopes that the future will bring a career in biomedical engineering and education. He has spent his high school summers in Upward Bound programs at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Nevada, Reno and Dartmouth College.
Gapuz said he is looking forward to entering college laboratory work, no matter the college he attends.
“At UNR I worked with a professor for most of the summer in a laboratory and the repetition of lab work doesn’t bother me at all, I actually like it,” he said adding that he would like to someday work in the field of Nephrology, the study of human kidneys. “My mom has high blood pressure and my dad is diabetic, and so I would like to be able to work with those patients. There is not really a Nephrology clinic around here, if I am not mistaken, so it would be really nice to give back to the community.”
Gapuz said giving back to the community he has grown up in has always been a goal he plans to achieve. Though he said it is uncertain where he will end up after receiving his degree, he said he envisions the money he makes as a doctor “going into a scholarship fund for people in low-income families.”
Gapuz said he plans to have his college applications, especially to his target school Dartmouth, finished by the end of October. Gapuz continues to be an avid tutor in math and calculus classes at Sparks High and said he enjoys “helping out fellow students.”
Gapuz said targeting Dartmouth presents a heavy workload and difficult challenge, but previous Sparks High students, who have ventured cross country to attend the Ivy League college, have helped him gain interest in Dartmouth and their Upward Bound program.
“It reminded me a lot of UNR because it was so green and everyone was talking about how it looks when it snows, and I like the cold weather,” Gapuz said. “I was able to sit in on an applied math class that was pretty interesting and they helped us get ready for our admission interviews.”
Gapuz said Dartmouth is still his number one target, but his visit to UC Berkeley for the Math and Science Upward Bound Program may give Dartmouth a run for its money.
“The best thing is not just the math and science, but that culture of being there is what was so great,” Gapuz said.
As he finalizes his college applications Gapuz is working hard to plan the prom celebration at Sparks High working with several on-campus clubs. He said plans are almost finished for the big dance, but he is not giving away any hints to his fellow classmates.