Kennewick High grad wields bright future

By Jacques Von Lunen, Herald staff writer June 4, 2011 

KENNEWICK -- Jesus Larios Murillo stood in a metal shop wearing a welder's thick leather garb this week.

His eyes gleamed at the glossy textbook in his blackened hands -- The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe.

If the soft-spoken young man keeps up the academic pace he so far has set, he likely will not rest until he has explored every known atom, plus every welding bead.

Today he will receive his diploma during Kennewick High School's graduation ceremony, which begins at 9 a.m. at the Toyota Center.

In a few weeks, once his International Baccalaureate test results are in, he will get several college credits in the sciences and liberal arts.

He can file those pieces of paper with the welding certificates he has earned at Tri-Tech Skills Center.

It's safe to say Jesus is a hard worker. And curious about the world.

Perhaps his humble beginnings are the reason for both.

Jesus grew up in a small village in Mexico. His father was a fisherman.

Jesus learned the multiplication tables before he ever set foot in a classroom -- by listening to his mother help his older sister with her homework.

He never saw a book until his first day in school.

"There were so many stories in it," Jesus said, clutching his forehead to mimic his surprise as a small boy. "It was like an explosion. And then, when I came to this country, there were so many books."

He spread his arms wide to show just how many.

The family moved to Kennewick when Jesus was in fifth grade. He attended regular classes and was a "normal student," he said.

But when he entered high school and had more control over his academics, he sought challenges.

"Kids told me to just take Spanish for my second language and get an easy A," he said. "I said, 'Why?' "

He took French instead and it changed his life.

Not because he picked up another Romance language. Because he met the first of several teachers who recognized his deep potential.

Jane Giardino -- Madame Giardino to her students -- saw his love for learning and recommended he sign up for International Baccalaureate courses.

Those courses, which are designed by an international nonprofit, are challenging and offer college credit if a student passes a final exam.

Jesus took IB classes in calculus, physics, chemistry, English and history in his junior and senior years.

He always had been interested in electronics.

"I took apart all the clocks when I was little," he said.

His curiosity about wires, combined with advanced classes on what's happening inside the wires, led him to an obvious choice for a career -- electrical engineering.

To make sure he would have a way to pay his way through college, he took welding classes at Tri-Tech. It ended up being more than a handy skill for part-time work.

"It was a complete surprise -- I really enjoy it," Jesus said. "If you can weld, you can build anything."

His path seemed to be well laid out before him.

Then he suffered a seizure last year, out of the blue. He ended up being fine, and tests showed it was a random event, unlikely to happen again. But it nonetheless changed his plans.

"At the hospital, everybody treated me so nicely," Jesus said.

He decided he wanted to do the same for people in his career.

Jesus this fall is headed for Columbia Basin College, followed by Washington State University Tri-Cities, he said.

He still will major in engineering. But he plans to "at least minor in biology," he said, in preparation for medical school.

"Then, some day, I can put the two together and develop technology to help people," he said.

His teachers are confident he will do just that. The book about physical elements he held so proudly was given to him by his science teachers. The four inscribed the book.

"I can't wait to see what a difference you will make in the world," said Marianne Fuller, his chemistry teacher.

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