Daniel Ledesma shoots for the stars academically, which is only fitting, perhaps, for someone who wants to design rocket ships someday.
A Natomas High School senior, Daniel has been accepted into one of the nation’s top-ranked universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and he dreams of a career in rocket science.
His dream job would be working as an aerospace engineer with a company like SpaceX, creating the next generation of spacecraft.
Colonizing Mars “is a dream of mine,” said Daniel, who has been fascinated with space exploration since he was a young child and believes that sustaining human life on Mars is possible but can’t predict whether it will take 10, 20 or 100 years.
The 17-year-old tends to dream big, then work hard and excel academically to make those dreams come true.
At Natomas High, Daniel has a cumulative grade point average of 4.4 while participating in the school’s Engineering Pathway and its prestigious Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone Program.
By graduation next month, Daniel will have completed 11 college-level AP classes, including Physics, Biology, Human Geography, U.S. History, two English courses, and two Calculus courses.
His extracurricular activities at Natomas High have included participation in the Math Olympiad, Science Bowl and MESA Club – Mathematics Engineering, Science Achievement. He also served as a student tutor last year.
Natomas High teacher Leonard Finch, coordinator of the school’s AP Capstone program, characterized Daniel as a “gifted young man with the calm equilibrium of a driver’s training instructor.”
“Daniel continues to calmly impress me with his diligence, clarity, and ability to analyze,” Finch said. “Daniel is full of surprises; his ability to learn and adapt has encompassed public speaking, research, writing and analyzing poetry, and obviously the logical progressions of argumentation in the Language and Composition essays.”
Recently, Daniel and a Nighthawk teammate captured second place in a regional MESA competition that challenged students to use as little balsa wood as possible in designing and creating a model bridge capable of carrying a heavy load.
Last year, Daniel participated in a four-person Nighthawk team that won a regional MESA competition in the Math Quest category, which involved solving problems requiring core mathematical knowledge, creative deductive abilities and collaborative reasoning.
Excelling in school is a priority for him, said Daniel, who always admired his older brother for getting good grades and “that definitely rubbed off on me.” His motivation shows in the estimated two to three hours per weekday he spends studying after school.
“It makes me feel good if I get good grades, it makes me feel satisfied,” said Daniel, who attended American Lakes and Natomas Middle schools in his younger years. “
What advice would he give to younger students? Keep swinging the bat. Keep coming to class. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn. “I’ve only missed a couple days this year, so I think that’s really helped with academics,” Daniel said. “You can miss a lot just by being absent one day.”