MADISON, NJ - On April 8 in New Brunswick, Madison High School physics teacher, Luis Largo received a Loyal Sons and Daughters award from the Rutgers University Alumni Association (RAA) -- the highest acknowledgement of service from the 186 year old organization at its 59th annual awards ceremony.

According to the Loyal Sons and Daughter committee, Largo has been an ultra-active member of the RAA, attending and photographing almost every event and Board of Directors meeting as well as serving as a member and/or co-chair on various committees over the last 10 years.

Largo graduated from the physics education certification program at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education in 2007. Just three years prior, Largo moved to the United States from Colombia without knowing how to speak any English. He spent a year learning English before enrolling in graduate school.

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Largo said part of the reason he wanted to get so involved in the RAA came from the cultural shock he experienced after moving to the United States.

“Rutgers is a big Division 1 school, and there is a lot of school spirit. It’s hard not to get excited about that, especially coming from another country,” said Largo. “I had a friend who brought me into the RAA and I was really interested in getting more involved.”

Largo also said he was very impressed by the community service that is conducted by the RAA. “In Colombia, community service is limited to a few people at church taking up a small collection for a local family, for example,” said Largo. “When I came to the United States I was blown away by the level of community service here, and I was inspired. I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve been given and knew I had to give back in some way.”

Specifically, Largo has organized a coat drive for Hurricane Sandy victims, as well as run an event called, “Rutgers in Your Backyard,” which helps kids from Perth Amboy who lack support at home realize that a college education from Rutgers is possible. He has also helped to stock the Rutgers Student Food Pantry and sponsor six low income New Brunswick families with a wish list during the last three holiday seasons.

Physics is “Not a Monster”

At MHS, where he teaches both on-level and AP physics, Largo’s mission is to dispel the myth that physics is an impossible “monster.” He said, “Physics is easy to understand once it’s been broken down into manageable pieces. In my classes, I design my own worksheets and try to show multiple representations of a complicated concept in a logical way.”

His students appreciate his efforts. One student who was inspired to become a physics teacher himself gave Mr. Largo a nice note after graduation -- along with a basket of muffins.

“When I came to the United States, not only was I blown away by the size of Rutgers and the level of community service in America -- I was blown away by blueberry muffins,” laughed Largo. “We didn’t have anything like that in Colombia when I was growing up, so I am always incorporating my love for muffins in my worksheets and tests. I was very touched when that student gave me that basket.”

In the future, Largo would love to see more Hispanic students taking honors and AP physics and more Madison students choosing Rutgers for college. “A lot of kids think going out of state is going to give them the true college experience, but honestly, the true college experience is right here in their own backyard.”