Walk into the band room at Northeast High School in Oakland Park, and there’s a good chance you’ll find Harold Sarmiento practicing on his trumpet.
The band director says this junior from Colombia has become a near-virtuoso player. Harold says being part of the marching band is his passion.
“The band is like a family to me,” Harold said.
His other school family is a group of students he leads on the InvenTeam. The kids are designing and building a device to fight the zika virus.
“My friends and I started brainstorming ideas of how we can help our community,” Harold explained. “So we thought about creating a mosquito disrupter that vibrates on the surface of the water and prevents reproduction,”
Their proposal won a prestigious Lemelson-MIT Eurekafest grant. The team from Northeast High will present its work to a panel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology next month.
“They chose 15 high schools from all over the country so the fact that we’re one of them is an amazing honor,” Harold said.
Harold has come a long way, geographically, educationally, and socially. When his family moved to the United States, Harold knew zero English. He started learning the language in fifth grade.
“When I first came to the country everything was new, the culture, the language, I wasn’t able to have any friends,” said Harold, describing a familiar situation for immigrants.
He overcame that barrier, then last year, a severe thyroid issue which required surgery set him back.
His classmates saw the obstacles and recognize a fighter when they see one. Harold just may be the most admired student on campus, and definitely among the sharpest.
“Very, very, very fast mind, and while you’re speaking to him, you can see it in his eyes, like he’s already 10 steps, 20 steps ahead of you,” said Clara Mabour, Harold’s science teacher and supervisor of the InvenTeam.
Harold is one of those kids who’s just not comfortable talking about himself. His peers, however, are happy to tell you how impressive he is. They say Harold represents a type of role model they aspire to become.
“I think they have perseverance, amazing perseverance, and they really know what they want to achieve, they know how to get to it,” said senior Coleen Sailsman, who is heading to UF in the fall and says Harold’s destined to go “amazing places!”
Sophomore Halle Shelton says Harold brings everyone’s morale up.
“His positive attitude, the way he goes about life, whenever something goes wrong, instead of being like, oh my God and panicking, he takes a deep breath, assesses the situation and just pulls through,” Halle said. “It’s a really admirable quality.”
Harold says adversity doesn’t last forever, which is his message to any students facing obstacles in their path.
“Just keep working because you’re gonna be awesome at the end,” Harold said.
Sound advice, and who knows, you may even learn to toot your own horn.