Student Spotlight: Juan Cortorreal

Juan Cortorreal at 2017 Bridge outing

This month we meet Juan Cortorreal, a 15-year-old sophomore from Harlem who is co-captain of our golf team and is interested in a career in computer engineering. He recently fielded some questions from Charlie Hanger, the digital content manager for our Foundation and Learning Center.

CH: Tell us about your family and other important people in your life.

JC: I live in Harlem with my dad and my siblings. I have a twin brother, Antonio, a big brother who’s 22, and a sister who’s 29. I also have a 30-year-old sister in the Dominican Republic.

CH: Who are your role models and other important people in your life?

JC: My dad. He’s a hardworking man. He never got much education and grew up in a household of 10 kids in the Dominican Republic. He was the oldest and had to take care of the family, so he worked with his hands. He came to New York, and now he works as a building super. He doesn’t get paid much, but he works hard for us.

CH: Tell us about learning English when you came to New York.

JC: My brother and I were 7 when we moved here, so we learned English in second grade, and some online.

CH: What’s your favorite subject in school?

JC: Math. I like problem-solving. Right now I’m taking Alegbra 2 with the 11th graders even though I’m in 10th.

CH: What do you want to do for a career?

JC: I want to be a software or hardware engineer, something dealing with computers. At The Bridge, we did coding with Scratch. It’s fun, and my Bigger Pie mentor is going to help me with it some too. I also have a cousin in New Jersey who is a software engineer and manager at Intel. My dad is going to see if he might also be able to work with me some. If my golf game keeps improving, I might also try to become a pro.

CH: Tell us more about your Bigger Pie mentor.

Juan Cortorreal and his mentor, Matt Gaughan

Juan Cortorreal and his mentor, Matt Gaughan, at this year’s fundraising outing at The Bridge.

JC: I was paired with Matt Gaughan. I met him this year at the tournament at The Bridge. He won the long drive contest, and we talked a lot that day.

We are working on three goals — academic, personal and career — that I’m trying to accomplish by Jan. 31. My academic goal is to stay above a 95 average in all my classes (I’m at 97 now). My career goal is going to be something related to software engineering, building my skills in a concrete way. My personal goal is focused on basketball, where I’m hoping to shoot more consistently and become an all-around better player.

CH: What is the thing you like the most about The Bridge?

JC: Golf. When we were first beginning, we were using plastic clubs at the Harlem Y. It’s amazing how far we’ve come since then. I think I’ve gotten better because of my work with our teaching pros and because we’re able to work with such great technology like TrackMan, where the courses are so realistic. I’m a quick learner, and when pros show me something I try to copy what they do. The strongest part of my game now is my iron play, especially my 7 and 8 irons.

CH: What else are you into? Sports, hobbies, etc.?

JC: I play basketball at school and the park, and I go to school on Saturdays for open gym. I recently quit playing video games. I was kind of bored with them, and it’s a good thing I stopped because I’m able to focus more on my homework. I’m not really a sports fan, but I like to watch football some, and I like Steph Curry.

CH: Of all the trips we’ve made so far with the program, which one was your favorite?

JC: The trips to The Bridge, especially our trip this summer when we worked on the grounds crew. I liked the work, and we learned a lot about how hard those guys work. I had to fill in divots on every hole — tees and fairways — and it was hard. They also let me drive the John Deere work carts. Another job I did was setting the pins. We had to remove the plastic cup from the hole, cut the new hole, place the cup in the new hole, fill the old one in, and paint them white.

I also liked the time on that trip when we weren’t working because the house we stayed in had such natural surroundings. I just liked the smell of being out there, which was so much different from the smells of the city.

CH: Who’s the better golfer, you or Antonio?

JC: Me, it’s obvious.