At 15 years old, Dafne Almazán is Mexico's youngest child psychologist. She finished elementary school at seven, high school by 10, undergraduate work by 13, and will finish her master's degree at the Technology and High Studies Institute of Monterrey at the age of just 16.
Perhaps more striking than this slew of accomplishments is the passion Almazán brings to her work with gifted students at Mexico's Centro de Atención al Talento (CEDAT), which translates to the Talent Attention Center, where Almazán works to make sure that special talents don't go untapped. This is essential in Mexico, which ranks near the bottom in education indicators among member countries to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and often has no facilities or expertise available for gifted students in rural areas.
"I see it as a social duty to my country to help its talent to thrive," Almazán says. "I have a goal of creating an adequate education option for gifted students whose special abilities need differentiated attention."
Almazán says that she was lucky to grow up in Mexico City, where her case was properly managed. Though she initially found no established programs for gifted children in the city, she attended one such pilot program at CEDAT when she was six, where her accelerated education began. But as a girl, she still had to prove herself in a way that a male prodigy might not have had to. She hopes that her current work—and her own trailblazing educational journey—can help inspire female students to go against the status quo when necessary, instead of conforming.
"Currently there is a seven-to-three ratio between gifted men and women attending schools," Almazán says. "In Mexico, girls [are more likely to] comply with school rules instead of showing their talents. So, one of my motivations is to help in the development of gifted women who currently are undetected."
Much of Almazán's work at CEDAT involves measuring the cognitive ability of gifted students and crafting suitable education programs that will empower and challenge them. When she's not doing that (or pursuing additional advanced degrees) Almazán enjoys playing the piano and chess and practicing taekwondo. She credits her parents for her success, as they "allowed my abilities to thrive in a time when gifted attention was not available in Mexico." In the future, it's her hope that special attention will be the norm for students in Mexico. She imagines creating specialized education centers in each of Mexico's state capitals and having gifted students recognized by the government.
"I want gifted students to know that, whatever obstacle they face, they should never give up their goals—especially if that limitation comes from a stereotype such as gender," she says. "Almost any adversity you face in academic or social scenarios will make you stronger."
Explore the complete list of this year's 30 top thinkers under 30 here. (Lead 3-D Illustration: Comrade)