Anna Aragão

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Anna   Aragão

Anna was born in São Gonçalo, a city in Rio de Janeiro state with a high incidence of poverty and violence. While still in elementary school, she realised that she wanted to go further with her education than her home city could provide for, and eventually decided to apply to Cefet/RJ – a highly ranked federal high school in Rio de Janeiro, where she now lives.

After sitting the entrance exams twice – and proactively dealing with the disappointment of being unsuccessful on the first try – Anna was finally admitted to the school she had set her heart on. Once she arrived, her experience at Cefet/RJ was transformative. Coming from an elementary school that struggled to provide basic education, Anna now had opportunities to enter Olympiads and science competitions. Although she began high school intending to study medicine, the broad curriculum and the many opportunities to participate in projects, contests and competitions meant that Anna became more interested in sustainability, management and business as she progressed.

Anna’s chief interest is now in the science of recycling and community improvement. She now serves as the Chief Financial Officer and majority shareholder of the Gera project, which helps recycling cooperatives connect up and co-ordinate with each other. Recycling cooperatives are organised informally by garbage collectors who sort waste to earn money: Gera provides a way for them to co-ordinate their efforts so they can handle more recycling and thus earn more. Elsewhere, in competitions, Anna has helped build products such as bioplastics from cocoa waste and maize starch, which helps to minimise single-use plastics and also protects the soil from excess potassium produced by the cocoa shell. In another competition, her team utilised the cellulose acetate fiber from cigarette waste, creating another way to recycle spent cigarettes.

Anna’s achievements have been recognised with gold (state level) and silver (national level) medals in the International Olympiad Mathématiques Sans Frontières; an international certificate in SCRUM; and an exceptional mention in two summer camps, the Latin American Leadership Academy (LALA) and Economics at Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV). In the future, Anna would like to study in the USA so that she can pursue a wider range of opportunities and gain the tools to change the way education works in São Gonçalo. Working hard to qualify for funding, she has improved her English and has now been accepted as one of twenty successful applicants out of three thousand (0.06% acceptance rate) for the Opportunity Funds Program, which helps with tuition and application fees.

If Anna wins the Global Student Prize, she would like to fund an NGO that teaches people how to be microentrepreneurs, as well as financially supporting entrepreneurship with investment in her home city of São Gonçalo. She would also use part of the funds to support her studies abroad in case she cannot receive the necessary financial aid to be accepted into her university or college of choice.