I’m an unwavering optimist and go-getter. 3 years ago, I moved to the U.S. from Venezuela, having not spoken any English. 6 months later, I’d learned enough English to enroll in advanced placement (AP) and honors courses at my high school - and that was just to start.
I founded the digital marketing consultancy Optimum Smart to evaluate personal and corporate brands. I speak four languages, including Chinese. I serve on Naperville’s Downtown Advisory Committee. I contribute to Panas en Chicago, a nonprofit providing assistance to Venezuelan immigrants. I manage Campolargo Holdings, a small hedge fund. At the end of last year, I also released my first book, Generation Optimism TEDx Speaker (1st - 2nd)
I will graduate from high school in 2020.
Juan David Campolargo’s Story:
My journey started in a beautiful and tropical country in South America called Venezuela. Venezuela was this magical place where I was born and raised for 14 years of my life until I moved to the United States.
However, Venezuela started deteriorating in every aspect you can imagine after 1998 when a populist regime came to power. His ideologies not only ruined the country economically and politically but also socially.
Delinquency was on the rise every year and in the area where we lived, every week there was some new kidnapping where criminals would ask for a huge ransom. My family and I were no exception.
I was 3 years old. It was a normal Saturday. My dad and I were driving to work - he often took me with him on the weekends. Suddenly, our car was ambushed. Several men were shooting…the bullets were breaking our car windows, hitting our tires and doors, literally everywhere. I didn’t know what was happening…I just hugged him as hard as I could until things went quiet and he laid limp beside me. Unfortunately, a gunshot had impacted my dad.
That horrible day happened in 2005, and as you can imagine growing up without a dad was pretty hard, everyone thought I was going to be traumatized for the rest of my life and that I wasn’t going to be a “normal kid.”
Well, they were right, I’m definitely not normal. I’m just a crazy kid. Just crazy kid who wants to inspire people to change the world.
After my father was murdered, Venezuela started to deteriorate, even more, every year, every month, and every day. We started to receive many threats from the government and the criminals who killed my dad. And since there’s practically no law. The days of my mom, younger sister, and I were numbered if we stayed there.
That’s where my mom took the bold choice of moving to the United States three years ago. If losing my dad was pretty challenging. Moving to the U.S. was quite a challenge. We had to adapt to the culture, we basically didn’t know anyone, and on top of everything else, we didn’t know the language. None of us knew a single word of English.
Starting from zero all over again is something that no one wants to do. I can speak for hours and hours of all the challenges and all of the crazy and funny stories that we faced but a determining factor was how I perceived and saw everything that was happening around me.
Before the first day of high school, I was thinking “Gosh, how can I learn English quickly?”, I thought to myself “Would it be possible to learn English in 1 day? Let me ask you. What do you think?
Well, I didn’t care and told myself I’m going to learn English in one day. Of course, that was not possible. At the end of that day, the only thing I had was a bunch of headaches.
I tried again, and told myself 1 week? No way. I wasn’t even close. I tried again. One month! I had learned a few words and phrases but nothing close to fluency.
Guess what I did next? I gave up, not just kidding.
I kept on trying and trying. I told myself - 6 months. And, by the end of the 6 months. I was becoming fluent and was able to understand my teachers and classmates.
After learning English, my journey in the U.S. had begun. The following year I started to take APs and honors classes. This wasn’t due to optimism alone. It also took a lot of hard work, perseverance, and being comfortable with taking risks. But these things wouldn’t even have been possible if I wasn’t wearing my optimistic glasses. Optimism was the first step.
I speak four languages (Spanish, English, Portuguese, and Chinese), founded the digital market agency Optimum Smart, manage a small hedge fund under the name Campolargo Holdings, serve on Naperville's Downtown Advisory Committee, and contribute to the nonprofit Panas en Chicago, which provides assistance to Venezuelan immigrants. I’m constantly looking for new opportunities to help others.
I was compelled to write, Generation Optimism, after reading research papers and surveys about how my generation (Gen Z) and millennials are the most pessimistic generations in the history of mankind. He knew he had to take action and researched the best way to make an impact. I began writing this book with the help of a Georgetown Professor to inspire the next generation to embrace a worldview of optimism.
When I’m not pursuing an opportunity or a crazy challenge (like building/designing underwater objects), I’m playing soccer, running, volunteering at the Museum of Science and Industry, or learning about science at America's particle physics and accelerator laboratory. I’m always looking for things to do, challenges to overcome, and successes to achieve.