Leading the Way
Biochemistry Senior Adrian Falco Wins
Parents Association Leadership Award
Written by Toni Salama
Falco is this year's winner of the Texas Tech Parents Association Student Academic Leadership Award representing the College of Arts & Sciences. The native of Friendswood, Texas, is president of the Honors College Bayless Elementary Mentoring Program. He's finishing his Honors thesis on the challenges of delivering medical supplies and services to Haiti. And he plays a pretty mean saxophone.
As a student on the pre-med track, Falco will be continuing his studies at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC). He wants to be a physician.
Falco began mentoring students at Bayless Elementary during his freshman year as one of 52 Honors College mentors who met once a week with their mentees to play board games and enter into other engaging activities.
That first year, Falco mentored two students and helped them identify academic subjects they might be interested in. One, a fourth-grader, showed an interest in science in general and chemistry in particular. So Falco set to work designing a special program for that student.
"By the end of the year, the fourth-grader could recite half of the periodic table by memory," Falco says. Encouraged by his student's progress, Falco organized a fundraising campaign to provide full-scholarship funding for the child to attend Shake Hands with Your Future, an academic summer camp at TTU. The campaign was so successful, it raised funds enough to help other Bayless students attend the camp, too.
Falco says the program today has grown to more than 100 mentors strong.
His Honors College thesis on delivering medical supplies and services to developing countries is based on a trip he made to Haiti in summer 2018. Through the Haiti Partnership ministry of Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, he spent a week in that country observing medical teams in the field. Falco was assigned to Dallas ophthalmologist Gary Fish, MD, of Texas Retina Associates, so he saw first-hand the great need of many Haitian people with eye diseases. He remembers one woman in particular who suffered from detached retinas.
"It was a problem that would have been easily solved in this country," Falco says, "but in Haiti it was hopeless."
In the Band
Every student needs a respite from continuous studies. Falco found his in the Texas Tech Jazz Ensemble II, where he spent two years playing tenor sax.
"After looking at walls of biology for hours on end, it was a break to look at sheets of music," Falco says. "I was the odd man out. Everyone else was a music major. I was the only biochemistry major."
He found the music faculty eager to help him work on his improvisation, and he played in the band's concerts twice a semester. When the North American Saxophone Alliance held its 2016 conference at Texas Tech, Falco took that opportunity to reconnect with musician friends and high school teachers from back home.
A Thankful Red Raider
Four years ago, Falco landed at Texas Tech as many students do: feeling a little alone because not many friends from high school were here. But, as many new Red Raiders discover, he made friends quickly and easily.
"I was able to find a home and a community and friends; and the faculty and staff and the support are great," he says.
"Even four years later, I can say how supportive the faculty and staff are, and approachable. During chemistry research in my sophomore and junior chemistry labs of Dr. (Dimitri) Pappas and Dr. (Dominick) Casadonte, everyone was approachable and welcoming."
Falco also remembers the support of biology professor and Honors College Dean Michael San Francisco. "I don't know that I would have had the same opportunities anywhere else. It's such a great support system," he says.
Falco will receive the Student Academic Leadership Award during the Faculty & Student Awards Reception & Breakfast April 27 in the International Cultural Center. Since 1974, the Texas Tech Parents Association has honored outstanding students, one from each college, who demonstrate excellence in academics as well as leadership.