Former Hunter's Creek Elementary student pays it forward, builds 'math park'

A Central Florida high school student is paying it forward by building a park for kids with a twist.

Students at Hunter's Creek Elementary can now play in a new park. It doesn't have any slides or swings but instead features math. Jesus Caraballo built the park for younger students to enjoy.

"When you flip it, all the pebbles end up falling in a normal distribution," Caraballo said of one of the math games.

Caraballo said the idea came to him after a summer program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It also got him one step closer to becoming an Eagle Scout.

He reached out to Addition Financial, a Florida-based credit union he worked as an intern with, for support with the project. 

The company's community engagement team immediately responded and stepped in to sponsor the project for Caraballo. 

"That's what I want kids to get out of the park: math is not just a formula and memorizing numbers, but it's about connections and ideas and how you formalize those ideas into solutions for problems," he said.

Caraballo loves math, something he says his mom instilled in him when he was a kid.

He and his family moved to the United States from Venezuela when he was a fourth grader.

"In Venezuela, we had a great life. My mom was an engineer at the top of her company. "We had a great life. She ended up giving up all of that to come here to the U.S. to give me and my brothers the opportunity to come to the land of opportunities."


Caraballo went to school soon after moving into his new home. He was enrolled in the dual-language program, where he would learn English and showcase his love of math. 

"I wanted to do it here at Hunter's Creek Elementary because of Ms. DePriest because she was my fourth-grade teacher and my first teacher here in the U.S."

Christie DePriest, now the school's assistant principal, said Caraballo is one of the students teachers don't forget.

"For a student to come back after all of these years and say, 'You're the reason why I want to do something special for the school' just really meant a lot to me," DePriest said. "Teachers don't often get to hear those things or see the impacts on their students, so that was really powerful for me."

While students enjoy the park, Caraballo will be hard at work studying at MIT, his dream school. He'll be a freshman in the fall.

"My hope is to take those problem-solving skills that you learn in a field like math and apply it to real world problems and overall make the world a better place," Caraballo said.