Can you imagine how proud I’m feeling right now? Zach totally cleaned up last week at his high school’s graduation ceremony when he walked away with a number of awards. The entire ceremony was basically split between Zach and a classmate who’s going to Princeton on a sports scholarship. Don’t get me wrong she’s a math and science whiz, whereas he’s the Social Sciences genius, but between them they won pretty much every awards that was on offer.
He topped both both English and World Studies for which he received two awards, then went onto receive an Ontario Scholar award as part of this graduation plus a citizenship award. However, the pièce de résistance was when Zach was presented with the Principal’s Award for the highest academic average in his top six best subjects in year 12.
The principal said that in all his years of teaching he’d never encountered a student quite like Zach, an in his introduction said the following “this individual is a voracious reader, inquisitive, loves a good conversation, he’s constantly looking to learn from people and experiences and he’s deeply curious, he does not view his courses as separate subjects, but rather as a different lens to study the human condition and as such truly exhibits an interdisciplinary approach to his study, this year’s recipient with the highest academic average in his top six Grade 12 courses including English is Zachary Wallis”.
I guess that’s what a 98% average will get you, the Principal went on to say when asked by the MC what the closest mark was to Zach – the next best was a 95% average. Incredible given that the vast majority of his subjects were subjective in nature, unlike Math and Science where there is a definitive answer for the most part.
Don’t worry, I realize that I’m completely bias and basking in the glory for just a moment but I want to share with you the turning point in Zach’s educational journey…his metamorphosis if you will – cos’ It wasn’t always like this.
Until 2014 Zach was attending an all boys school in downtown Toronto and was seemingly coasting along without a lot of effort – worrying to be sure! He was doing okay and was a mid 80% student (given my personal academic career even getting mid 80%’s he was a rockstar by comparison, but that’s another story). Toward the end of the school year he was really struggling for a host of reasons, and so after discussions with my ex and including Zach he changed schools. We moved him to Toronto Prep School (TPS).
TPS operates like a University in that each student studies four subjects intensively for a full semester (half year), it didn’t take us long to realize that this was the perfect environment for Zach – small classes and incredible faculty were a match made in heaven.
After his first year, he came to us and asked if he could go to summer school instead of camp. We both were a little surprised but went along with his request, asking him where and what he wanted to study. His immediate response was Georgetown University in Washington DC to study Foreign Policy and International Relations…wow, the big time!
To gain admission to the program Zach had to write an essay, and submit a letter of recommendation from his Principal and hope that his essay would hold up against the competition as the course was only taking 40 students total. After he submitted his essay and reference letter he held his breath for a few weeks until he got confirmation of his acceptance
So he and I took a road trip via New York City on the way the Washington DC, where I dropped him and got him settled into his residence on campus. In retrospect it’ll be the same this August when i take him Montreal to start at McGill. 🙂
During his six week stay we talked most days and in the early going he told me how surprised he was by the amount of study, critical thought and debate was expected of him. My response was “welcome to the real world mate”. He quickly knuckled down and found his groove fitting right into University life. 🙂
This was the defining moment in Zach’s academic career!
Upon his return he said that he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life – he’d figured it out… Bravo was my first thought!!!
He wanted to work in the Foreign Service within the diplomatic corps with the goal of becoming an ambassador.
Then his work began as he researched the schools that would serve him best in his quest, but ultimately he felt that to get a good start he’d need an undergraduate degree in Political Science with at a minor in linguistics and/ or a language, closely followed by his Masters and possible PH.D.
From that moment on he was a completely different young man from the one I’d dropped off earlier in the summer. He completely refocused his attention on excelling in school and it wasn’t long before his marks quickly rose into the high 90’s and beyond. He had determined that to get into the schools of his choice he’d need to outwork everyone else around him.
So he then began to spend 2-3 hours every night (and I mean every night religiously), including weekends at the public library after school focusing on research, writing and completing all of his homework well in advance of their due date. With all this extra curricular study he’s become an incredibly articulate writer – I seriously pale in comparison to his talent in this arena…
Over the next two years he rarely missed a day. Even this past New Year’s eve his resolution was to read 40 books over the course of 2017. And I’m not talking just any books – here’s are just a few of titles he’s tackled so far this year in his quest:
- Trotsky – Robert Service
- A Concise History of the Russian Revolution – Richard Pipes
- The Greek War of Independence – David Brewer
- From Third World to First – Lee Kuan Yew
And the list goes on.. its July and he’s already read over 30 books and likely well on his way to over 50.
Before accepting a place at McGill University in Montreal, he was accepted into the following Universities – Toronto, Ottawa, Queen’s, Carleton, plus the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews in Scotland.
His turning point was discovering his passion for history and politics and then taking action – some might say “like father like son” on that score. Clearly the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree, and I suppose I have influenced him in ways, that until now had not been evident.
Such a sweet discovery!
His success has been driven from within, combining his incredible work ethic with a laser focused attention to detail has enabled him to graduate number one in his class and therefore have his pick of Universities. Mission accomplished mate!
As you can tell I’m so incredibly proud of him and all of his accomplishments – I’m one lucky guy!!!