When the current seniors at Trinity High School in Washington County, Pennsylvania, cross the graduation stage, Zach Dinch, 18, will be one of five valedictorians of the class of 2018. He has a bright future to look forward to: from more than 5,400 global applicants for the class of 2022 at Princeton University, he was one of fewer than 800 students to win early admission. Zach is the first in his family to attend college, where he plans to pursue a BSE in Computer Science.
Thanks in part to Oracle Academy, Zach is ready. He earned his Database Foundations Certified Junior Associate certification in January by passing the Oracle Database Foundations exam, and, in March, passed the Professional Certification exam on Oracle Database 11g: SQL Fundamentals I.
Oracle Academy: Congratulations on your admission to Princeton. Did you always have a passion for computer science?
Zach: Though I was always interested in computers, as a child I dreamed of being an astronaut. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with a condition excluding me from careers requiring physical endurance. At that point, I changed my plans, deciding that I’d one day like to work for a large tech company. I had two uncles working in the industry who served as early role models for me, and one of them strongly encouraged me to consider Oracle Academy (Honors Oracle courses at Trinity) as a course in high school.
Oracle Academy: And from that moment, there was no looking back?
Zach: Quite the opposite. Beginning in eighth grade, I hit a roadblock in math; basic algebra stopped making sense to me. It was incredibly frustrating to supposedly be a top-tier student while simultaneously failing to understand the simplest concepts. I was falling behind, and felt as if I was again losing my dream; this led to some serious self-confidence issues.
My struggles continued throughout geometry and pre-calculus, and, by junior year, I was seriously considering abandoning my plans. I never could have predicted how dramatically my life would change when I met Mrs. Alyssa Cotton, my Honors Oracle and AP Calculus AB teacher.
She believed in me when I had lost faith in myself, and that belief was like a light in the darkness.
Oracle Academy: Good teachers often are the key to success in education. How did your teacher turn the tables for you?
Zach: Mrs. Cotton completely changed my perceptions of myself. She believed in me when I had lost faith in myself, and that belief was like a light in the darkness. She gave up an incredible amount of her time to help me recover, and it completely changed my outlook. During my junior year, I learned four years of math – Algebra II, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, and Calc AB – in under nine months. With her help, I finished the second semester with a 100% and earned a five on the AP Exam. Today, I’m at the top of the class in Trinity’s most difficult STEM Courses: AP Calc BC, AP Physics II, AP Statistics, AP Economics, and Honors Oracle III among others.
Oracle Academy: What impact did learning through Oracle courses have?
Zach: I very quickly discovered that I had a natural affinity for SQL; it simply made more sense to me than other programming languages I had learned. The Honors Oracle courses I took reaffirmed my decision to pursue a career in computer science. In class, I displayed enough potential that Mrs. Cotton allowed me to take courses not normally accessible to Trinity students. Independently, I took three supplemental courses during my senior year: Database Foundations, App Development Foundations, and Developing Chatbots. Because of Database Foundations, I was able in January to acquire my Certified Junior Associate certification. Additionally, in March I took Oracle Database 11g: SQL Fundamentals I, a professional-level certification that marks the first step in me eventually becoming a Oracle Database Certified Associate.
Oracle Academy: What other activities have you participated in? Were you able to apply your database and programming skills in ways that might surprise us?
Zach: Absolutely! For the past 10 months, I have headed a team developing a database for Trinity’s History Department based on surveys taken by incoming 9th grade World History students. The surveys, designed to assess prior knowledge of famous people, places, and events, will be compiled into a SQL database, which will allow us to easily sort and search the results. The goal is eventually to use statistics derived from the data to tailor the department’s curriculum.
I utilized skills acquired through my Oracle courses – how to track business requirements and how to develop a product that will be adaptable for future needs.
In another project, I assisted a local county childcare agency with redesigning their website for daily usage by their thousands of clientele. In doing so, I utilized skills acquired through my Oracle courses – such as how to track business requirements and how to develop a product that will be adaptable for future needs. Among other goals, I integrated Google Maps into the site, built directories of staff/office locations, and created pages offering resources to both childcare providers and clients. For my efforts, I received a Certificate of Recognition from the county’s Board of Commissioners in September.
At school, I participate in numerous clubs, including the THS STEM Club, where I’ve been a member of the Governor’s Team for the past two years. This year, we took 3rd place at a Penn State competition for our intelligent recycling bin, which used neural networks to automatically sort and appropriately dispose of various types of waste. Recently, I’ve served as the Fundraising Chair for the Chick-Fil-A Leader Academy’s second annual Life Skills Classic, a fun-filled day for our school’s special needs students. I was responsible for writing the $500 grant that made the event possible. Additionally, I’ve been a member of some of Trinity’s top academic teams, including Varsity Academic League and Math League.
Oracle Academy: And now you’re starting the next part of your life at Princeton. To what do you attribute getting into one of the most prestigious universities in the USA?
Zach: In order to gain admittance into Princeton, you need to demonstrate both a love of life and a desire to live to the fullest of one’s capabilities, highlighting a certain degree of merit in all that you do. Personally, I believe I distinguished myself against an extremely qualified applicant pool through my incredible letters of recommendation, the essays I wrote, and the portfolio I created in the Honors Oracle course. The goal of your application is to make yourself memorable to an admissions board that has to look at thousands of incredible candidates and make decisions on who to admit; I fully believe that my work with Oracle Academy courses was crucial in helping me to distinguish myself.
And it needs to be said that I absolutely would not have gotten there without the continued assistance of Mrs. Cotton; without her, I wouldn’t even have had the confidence to apply. Today, my life is like a wildfire: intense, unpredictable, exciting, and maybe a little out-of-control at times. But it all began with a single spark, her encouraging me to believe in myself, to dream bigger than I ever thought possible.