Florida boy honored with global award
When the phone call came one night last November, as the family was eating dinner, Miguel Secillano thought it was a joke. His father, Phillip, told him he had been named a recipient of the 2020 Global Child Prodigy Award and invited to a gala celebration in New Delhi, India, on Jan. 3.
“My father answered the phone and then told me I had won some kind of award,” Miguel recalled. He was instantly skeptical. “I was like, ‘Is this a scam?’” Turns out, his parents wondered that, too.
His mother, Imee, did some research and determined that it was, indeed, legitimate. The award was created to honor and encourage 100 gifted children and young adults in 30 different categories, including Fitness, Science, Paleontology, Mathematics, Art, Music and Entrepreneurship/Business.
Recipients were chosen from more than 35 countries across the globe. The guests at the ceremony included entrepreneurs, former ministers, members of Parliament and entertainers.
“There were over 15,000 kids nominated,” Imee said. “It took the committee three years to winnow them down and decide on the 100.”
It was a complete surprise to everyone in the family. “To this day, we don’t know who nominated him,” Imee said with a laugh. “But we’re very glad they did.”
Miguel, age 10, is a fifth grader at Dr. N.H. Jones Elementary School in Ocala. He showed an advanced aptitude far beyond his years when he was just a toddler.
His parents were alert to his growing skills and recognized after psychological assessment testing at age 4 that he would need more stimulus and challenge in his education, and encouraged his natural talent as a mathematician.
A Magic Square expert and lover of puzzles, Miguel was featured on “Little Big Shots” with Steve Harvey when he was 7 years old, presented a “Gravity and Pendulum Physics” computer simulation at Ocala Palms alongside mentor Joseph Fischetti , and has already completed sixth grade level math and programming courses (he’s currently finishing 7th grade level).
On his Facebook page, you’ll find him regularly solving complex equation challenges that would stymie the average adult --- just for fun.
After confirming the award was real, Miguel and his parents excitedly made plans to go to India for a week --- Miguel’s first trip abroad, not counting a trip to his parents’ native Philippines when he was barely out of diapers.
He was eager to meet and spend time with other students who had received the honor. “I was excited to meet them all,” he said. “Some of them were even younger than me --- like 5 years old!”
He was presented with his certificate and trophy by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shri Kailash Satyarthi and Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry Dr. Kiran Bedi.
But it was meeting co-founder and CEO Prashant Pandery that turned out to be a highlight of the week for everyone. The critically acclaimed writer/director was inspired to create the award program because of his own childhood experiences as a prodigy.
Pandery took time with each of the kids, shaking their hand and speaking to them individually --- sometimes to the consternation of the event organizers, who worried he’d get behind schedule.
But to Imee, the fact that he didn’t let that deter him made the event that much more special.
“He gave advice to the parents and the kids, held their hands. It was just a great message,” she remembered. “He was amazing, and it was an awesome experience.”
The family took time to explore the area and go sightseeing, visiting the legendary local bazaars and of course, the Taj Mahal --- which, says Miguel, “Blew my mind. The pictures aren’t enough to describe the beauty of it.”
The opportunity to meet and talk with so many people from diverse, creative backgrounds gave him a new appreciation of his own possibilities. He would like to help tutor elementary students in math, and continue to stretch himself through participation in science fairs and math competitions, which he enjoys.
Miguel’s experiences in New Delhi helped refocus his goals and confidence.
“It helps me tell myself I can do whatever I want,” he said. “I’m really proud of it.”
This story originally published to ocala.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.