Without a doubt, Zachary Eklum is one of the most accomplished students that Jamestown Public Schools has ever seen.
As valedictorian of the JHS class of 2013, Zach heads into graduation with a detailed blueprint of where the next decade will take him, which is bolstered by college commitments and determined career plans.
Zach's favorite subjects are math, specifically calculus, and chemistry, although he said he only began truly taking an interest in math as recently as his junior year. Through his own initiative, he managed to pass his AP calculus AB exam after only one semester of class time for the subject, doing most of his studying for the exam outside of class in order to "progress ahead."
As a senior, he is taking calculus BC as an independent study, while sitting in with the calculus AB students.
"It's mostly self-taught," he said. "I basically just sit in a corner and read my own textbook, and learn that way, and then meet with my teacher a couple times a week to make sure I'm caught up on things. At the beginning of the year, I was taking tests with the AB kids still, because they do overlap a little bit, but I mostly just teach myself and show my teacher what I've done."
By taking this extra class, Zach is assured of having no math requirements as an undergraduate in college while accumulating more college credits for his transcript, which currently shows 33 credits. According to his guidance counselor, Ashley Noon, Zach has the potential to earn at least 48 college credits by the time he graduates. These credits were compiled through his enrollment in 11 Advanced Placement and three college-level courses.
Zach's list of AP classes includes: English language and composition, English literature and composition, U.S. history, psychology, environmental science, chemistry, physics C in mechanics, biology, calculus AB, calculus BC and European history. The three college-level courses he will earn credit for are statistics, computer applications and engineering.
These achievements have made him eligible for the pursuit of an Academically Advanced Regents diploma with high honors.
Zach is committed to attending SUNY Fredonia, where he will pursue a degree encompassing all sciences, with a focus in biology. For a traditional college student, 48 credits would constitute approximately a year-and-a-half of classes. However, Zach has also been accepted, as one of five students in the state, into the SUNY Upstate Medical University through its early assurance program.
According to Zach, this program requires four years of undergraduate studies, which he said he will utilize to retake some of the math classes he received in high school in order to prepare for SUNY Upstate's admission exam. Pending Zach's passing of this exam, he is committed to the medical school beginning in the fall of 2017 as a member of the class of 2021.
"I consider it the opportunity of a lifetime, and bigger than anything I've accomplished in the past," he said.
Upon his graduation from SUNY Upstate, Zach said he plans to return to Jamestown and start his own doctoral practice. Although he isn't totally set on a specific medical field, he is currently considering going into family medicine.
"I've grown up here my whole life, and I understand that there's a really desperate need in this area; moreso than in other areas of the country. I just want to make a difference in the city that gave me everything growing up, and I just feel like it's a good way to give back," he said.
In addition to his academic achievements, he has also emerged as a leader at JHS. He currently serves as co-president of his class; a role that, as a senior, makes him a co-president of the entire student body at JHS. He is also president of Key Club, and a member of the National Honor Society.
Zach has exhibited his leadership abilities in his athletic involvement as a member of several Red Raider sports programs, a trait for which he has been well-rewarded. According to Tom Langworthy, head coach of the Red Raiders football program, Zach has done an impressive job at exerting equal amounts of mental and physical energy on the field.
"Zach Eklum is an outstanding student-athlete who embodies a wide variety of tremendous character traits," said Langworthy. "Zach is dedicated, hard-working, energetic, determined, disciplined and enthusiastic. He has done a phenomenal job balancing and prioritizing academics and athletics. I am proud that Zach represents Jamestown High School and the Red Raider football program."
These character traits, along with his academic success, have earned him a number of awards too numerous to list.
Some of his more notable achievements include: 2013 Section 6 qualifier and Class AA champion in varsity wrestling; 2012 Chautauqua/Cattaraugus County singles champion in varsity tennis; the WIVB Channel 4 News of Buffalo's February 2013 scholar athlete award; the Fessenden, Laumer and DeAngelo scholar athlete of the week and scholar athlete of the fall awards; the JHS student athlete of the week award; a nomination for the National High School Coaches Association March athlete of the month award; and the 2013 Section 6 New York Athletic Administrators Association student-athlete scholar.
Zach has earned several more athletic awards for his varsity football career alone. Interestingly enough, his varsity football career only constitutes his senior year, as he had quit football after getting a concussion in eighth grade. Regardless, his single varsity season, in conjunction with his academics, has earned him some of the highest honors received by a JPS athlete.
These awards include: the 2012 Unsung Hero award; the Section 6 NYS Public High School Athletic Association scholar athlete of the All-Western New York football team; the top high school football student-athlete in Section 6, awarded by Western New York Amateur Football Alliance; and, most recently, New York State student scholar-athlete of the year.
His academic awards at JHS also include: AP scholar with distinction; JHS student of the month, as a freshman and as a junior; Jamestown Community College's college connections student of the year; American Legion Boys State delegate; the Harry E. Kline Excellence in Chemistry award; the University of Rochester Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science award; a nomination to attend a National Youth Leadership Forum on medicine; and he was named to Business First's 2013 All-Western New York Academic Team's first team, an elite award for the top 25 seniors of eight WNY counties. He was the first JHS student to be nominated to the first team.