Fuantos Siblings Speak Fluent Math

Pictured from left to right are Juan Manuel Fuantos, Juan and Karla Fuantos, Armandina Villarreal and in front, Roberto Jesus Cerrillo.

By Laura Nelson

Imagine enrolling in college in another country with limited skills in that country’s language and then imagine graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with honors five years later.

Meet Karla Armandina Fuantos and Juan Manuel Fuantos, siblings who walked across the stage last Saturday night at the Sul Ross State Univ. Rio Grande College commencement ceremony in the Eagle Pass International Center for Trade. Karla graduated summa cum laude, and as the student with the highest grade point average in her class, led the Pledge of Allegiance at the ceremony. Juan earned magna cum laude honors. Degrees conferred cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude reflect an outstanding overall grade point average of graduating seniors. The corresponding grade point averages are cum laude-3.50 to 3.69; magna cum laude-3.70 to 3.89; summa cum laude-3.90 to 4.00.

Although Karla and Juan were both born in Eagle Pass, they grew up in Mexico and completed high school there. Juan, the elder by one year, enrolled in Southwest Texas Junior College after high school. He had familiarized himself with English by watching English language television with Spanish subtitles, but did not speak it and found writing it particularly difficult. Juan credits his instructors at SWTJC with helping with his language skills, and said, “If you try, put in the effort, and persevere, you can succeed.”

One year later, Karla joined Juan at SWTJC, and because she likes to read, honed her English skills by reading. She also enjoys computer programming, socializing, and family time. She particularly appreciates the encouragement she received from her parents and both have benefited from having close family ties in Eagle Pass.

The pair finished their associate degrees the same semester, and then enrolled at RGC. Both enjoyed classes with Dr. Michael Ortiz and appreciated the small class sizes. They also mentioned Dr. Maria Gear, especially the practical skills they learned from her. They completed student internships and are now preparing to take the teacher certification test. Both hope to teach junior high or high school math in the area and are considering master’s degrees.

Juan and Karla credit their parents with their success and appreciate their support. Both of their parents hold degrees. Their father Juan is an agricultural engineer while their mother Armandina is a retired administrative assistant. They also received help from extended family, especially with their studying. They enjoy an especially close relationship with one of their cousins, Roberto, and take pleasure in helping him study.

Juan pointed out that despite the language difficulties, math is a kind of universal language, and while he did not always understand what was being said, he understood the math problem. Given the effort Karla and Juan put into their English skills, with any luck they can communicate math to those with limited skills in that “language.”