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West Vancouver student dubbed one of the world’s brightest by Johns Hopkins Centre

11-year-old Nicolas Ramirez Taake from West Bay Elementary in West Vancouver has been honoured for his exceptional performance in the Johns Hopkins Talented Youth Talent Search
Nicolas Taake, aged 11, has been named one of the world’s brightest students by Johns Hopkins University Centre for Talented Youth. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News

There’s coming top of the class, and then there’s being named one of the smartest kids in the world by the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Talented Youth.

Nicolas Ramirez Taake, an 11-year-old Grade 5 student at West Bay Elementary School, was one of 16,000 gifted students from 90 countries to take part in the Talented Youth Talent Search in 2023.

Nicolas bagged the title of brightest student after scoring in the 86th percentile of Grade 8 students in math, and in the 55th percentile of Grade 8 students in the verbal category. When the young mastermind took the test last year, he was aged 10 and in Grade 5.

“It’s really quite remarkable, I’m very, very proud,” said Nicolas’ mom, West Vancouver resident Isabel Taake.

Taake, who had learned of the program from a former West Vancouver participant, said she always knew her son had a gift.

“He always had this incredible memory. Even when he was only one-and-a-half or two years old, he could remember the entire alphabet already. I would shout out numbers and he would point them out correctly,” she said.

“He has always been very talented, and very gifted in math, so we’ve always looked for opportunities to give him enriched math lessons.”

Taake said school curricula have always been “quite easy and boring” for Nicolas, and finding classes or programs that encourage and improve his talents have been difficult.

Now with this latest success under his belt, Nicolas is eligible to enrol in classes specifically catered to gifted children. He’ll be starting online math classes in September, said Taake, and in a few years time may even study on campus at the annual summer camp.

“This is not just recognition of students’ performance on one test, but a testament to their curiosity and capacity for learning,” said Amy Shelton, PhD, executive director of the Centre for Talented Youth.

“These students have demonstrated enormous potential, and now we encourage them to seek out experience and communities that help them challenge and stretch their knowledge, connect with our young scholars, understand diverse perspectives, think critically, and pursue their goals confidently.”

As for Nicolas, he is feeling “pretty proud of himself” but isn't one to toot his own horn, he said. He hasn’t even told his friends yet – “I don’t like to talk about it too much” – and intends on focusing just as much time and attention on his other hobbies of swimming, robotics and vaulting.

He sees a career in engineering in the future, he said, a field that will have him putting his unique talents to good use.

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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