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Rosa the Dancer
Rosa the Dancer
May 25, 2024

Conquering the beast


Senior Zach Smith’s academic dedication pays off in AP tests

   Not so long ago, one brave warrior set out to accomplish the impossible: conquering six AP tests in the span of two weeks. Months of rigor and preparation had defined Senior Zach Smith’s journey, and these five tests would be his final task before reaping his reward of scoring a five on five of those six tests. Prior to these tests, Smith had bested his PSAT in the fall of his junior year, earning a score of 1510 out of 1520, which led to him receiving the qualification of National Merit Finalist, a title that has earned him several scholarships and boosted his college applications. Smith’s test scores and achievements prove as a reflection of his dedication and intelligence that have distinguished him as a top scholar of PRHS.

   This hard work of four years has payed off in his college acceptances. Smith has received acceptances from UCLA, UCSB, UCSC, UC Davis, Cal Poly, CSU Long Beach, and CSU San Diego. He’s decided to attend Cal Poly to major in biochemistry. After he completes his undergrad degree, Smith hopes to attend dental school to become an orthodontist.

   “I like the idea that you can instill confidence in people. I’m not so into the bloody aspects of the medical field, so I think it’s a good way for me to continuing to study what I want, and then at the end have a successful career and do something that I enjoy,” said Smith.

   This career path is a result of Smith’s specific interest in the sciences. His junior year, he was given the opportunity of choosing a more personalized schedule, which allowed for Smith to select specific courses that interested him. As a student at PRHS, he has expressed the science courses he has taken as some of his favorites.

   “I’ve always loved the sciences,” said Smith. “Throughout high school, that love has been fostered and I’ve become more and more interested in this field of work.”

   His passion for the sciences has, according to Smith, boosted his work from its “mundane” level of his underclassmen years. Smith’s passion and dedication for his academics increased, establishing him a reputation of being a scholar of PRHS. High test scores and impressive understanding of his courses have not only given him this reputation, but also aided Smith in his academic success.

   “Zach is brilliant.  I have had a lot of kids come through my room and I would put Zach at the top of that list.  And it’s in every subject. He can tutor every subject on campus,” said Calculus AB and Precalculus teacher Jim Steaffens.

   As a child, Smith maintained his reputation of striving for excellence in simple ways, one of such being making paper airplanes. Fold after fold, crease after crease, he’d manipulate the paper into the perfect airplane. If it didn’t meet his standards, it got crumpled up and thrown away. Smith would later emulate this level of precision and dedication in his high school career; if Smith doesn’t understand a concept in one of his classes, like with the airplanes, he’ll stop and start from scratch until he gets it.

   “I’ve just always been that type of kid,” said Smith. “That was just kind of the level of which I approach everything, so in school, it’s kind of been the same way.”

   This dedication has paid off in the form of multiple scholastic successes, including his SAT, ACT, and AP scores, as well as qualifying for National Merit Finalist.

   “I never get to a point and say: well, I guess I’m good here. I’m always striving to do better than I’m currently doing,” said Smith.

   In addition to scholastics, Smith has found an interest in helping others.

   Smith has volunteered as an assistant coach for a VIP special needs AYSO youth soccer team for two years alongside seniors Lily Seebart and Ryan Stronks and a few other volunteers. Like with tutoring, Smith works to help the team thrive, committing himself to teach the concept at hand

   “Whether it’s through helping people understand a new concept in school or helping a child with special needs get to learn a new sport, he’s just one of those people who will always be willing to help,” said Seebart, Smith’s girlfriend of three years

   A few days a week for one to three hours during the fall, Smith could be found coaching 15 to 20 kids ages five through 18. While the extracurricular could create struggles with schoolwork, Smith has never regretted the decision to coach.

   “[Coaching] allowed me to really broaden my perspective on life and gain an appreciation for my situation. It’s humbling to be able to interact with such amazing kids who each face their own set of challenges,” said Smith, who plans to continue coaching after high school.

   While Smith has spent his falls coaching, his winters and springs have been focused on golf. The senior has been playing on PRHS’s varsity golf team since his freshman year. Despite golf matches causing him to miss a number of classes his junior year, Smith has stuck with the sport, as it provides him enjoyment.

   “I really enjoy it. It’s a great way to get away,” he said.

   Before he attends Cal Poly, Smith will be departing PRHS at the top of the Class of 2018. In the running Class of 2018’s valedictorian or salutatorian, it may be thought that Smith would have been competing for the role, but he expressed a feeling of unison rather than rivalry for the position.

   “With so much competition around the globe, I’ve always felt like the students in my class are in it together to help one another rather than being in direct competition,” said Smith.

   As Smith awaits the score reports of the AP tests he took in May, he’ll be waiting to find out if he will claim the title for most 5s earned on AP tests at PRHS. Even without the distinguishment, Smith has made his mark on the school and will be remembered as a top scholar of PRHS.


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