“The philosophy of his early teachers was that all children have gifts, so no one treated him “special.” He was encouraged to explore and discover what he loved.” – Patricia Yager
With the start of 2018, another wave of seniors prepare for graduation, all with different plans for the future, built on their work and effort for the last 18 years.
Zach Holland, one of the graduating seniors, has continuously exemplified his academic abilities since his elementary school years.
“It was clear early that he learned quickly. He had a good memory and loved to learn to count. He liked puzzles, especially Sudoku, which he was solving when he was five. He could read before he was three and was churning through books at a quick pace, too. He was reading Harry Potter by the time he was five,” said Steven Holland, Zach’s father.
Not only does Zach excel in academics, but he also showed passion for sports and music from a young age.
“He played piano since he was five, trumpet since middle school, and most recently, guitar. Marching band at Cedar has been a great experience for him. He played a lot of baseball, too, and he loved being on Cedar’s team last year,” said Steven Holland.
Zach’s parents weren’t the only people aware of the way he stood out among children his age. His teachers from Montessori took notice and thought it suit
able for him to skip the third grade. This decision was not an easy one for his parents to make.
“It was a hard decision, but we included him and his teachers in the process,” said Patricia Yager, Zach’s mother.
“Skipping a grade is not just about putting kids with similar academic skills together, but also matching kids with similar physical and social skills,” said Steven Holland. “Being born in June, Zach was young for his grade already, and promoting him a grade made him up to two years younger than his peers. We were concerned about that.”
Zach did not have as many worries when making his choice.
“I remember the teachers were talking to my parents. They just asked ‘do you want to do this’, and I had a bunch of friends in the grade above me, so I said sure. It wasn’t that big of a deal to me to be honest,” said Zach.
As Zach’s parents predicted, there were indeed some challenges that arose as he entered middle school. However, neither Zach nor his parents ever regretted the decision they made.“The differences in physical size were pronounced and his peers teased him about his age. Even so, I never had strong regrets,” said Steven Holland.
“There were several years when the age mismatch was difficult for Zach socially, but there was never a point when we thought he should have stayed back. There’s nothing like boredom to kill one’s interest in school,” said Yager.
His achievements inside and outside of school go beyond just his natural talents. Like many others who wish to do well, Zach had to put in the extra time and effort.
“He has rigorous study habits granting him the power to succeed. Watching Zach work has pushed me to try harder and to be better as a student,” said Tom Eberhart, Senior.
While both of his parents are science professors at UGA, Zach found a different interest to pursue: politics and law.
“Learning about [science] is fine, but science fair and doing that stuff isn’t fun. I’d rather do it for politics or government,” said Zach Holland. “After college I want to go to law school; that’s sort of the eventual goal. After that I’m planning to be a lawyer for a couple of years, but then start running for public office. I want to be a congressman or president someday.”
Though surprised by his choice of study, Yager and Holland are excited by the journey their son will take as he explores the field.
“When he first told me about his interest in law instead of science, I admit I was a little disappointed, but then he started telling me why he wanted to learn the law: to help people get justice. I’m delighted that Zach has found something he loves that is different from what I know,” said Yager.
“For some, maybe many, law and politics are tainted, but I am inspired that Zach sees these as ways to make the world better, as ways that he can make the world better,” said Steven Holland.
With Zach’s current SAT score — which earned him the 2018 STAR student award for posting the highest score in the school — and his GPA, he considered a number of colleges, including Ivy League schools. Though some parents force the idea of attending an Ivy League school on their children, Zach’s parents never had such expectations.
“I didn’t have any particular plans for which college Zach would attend. Having gone through the selection process myself, I figured it was up to him to figure out the best fit. I have mostly tried to make sure he knows what his options are,” said Yager.
Even without his parents’ push, Zach became interested in Harvard and applied as an early admissions student.
“Sophomore year when I started looking at colleges, I started by looking at some of the best academically that matched up with me. Some of them when I visited I really didn’t like them. Harvard just felt really awesome, and the environment was what made it different from everyone else,” said Zach Holland.
Zach recently interviewed for a spot at the school, all part of their admissions process.
“He basically asked me about my interest in Harvard and what I could contribute to the college,” said Zach.
Despite receiving the chance to further impress the admissions team with the interview, it is not certain that he will be accepted into the university. According to Zach, his results will come out around late March. However, Harvard isn’t the only school that he’s interested in.
“While I’d love to go to Harvard, the chances of any student getting in are exceptionally low, and I knew that when I applied. I applied to Yale and Columbia, as well as the University of Michigan, Amherst College, and UGA. Truthfully, I’d love to go to any of them, and making a final decision will be tough, no matter the outcome,” said Zach Holland.
Whether Zach ends up getting accepted into the highly competitive university or not, those around him are all proud of how far he’s come, and are looking forward to how he’ll continue to grow.
“I am excited that someone like Zach would consider such an endeavor. If he continues to grow in wisdom, I think he would make an excellent candidate that would be able to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions,” said Dr. Bradbury Bailey, science department chair, who Zach chose as the 2018 STAR teacher.
“I’m very proud of the person Zach is today. He has worked hard and done well at school. He has a strong sense of fairness. He has also grown into a leader. He is a compassionate person who tries to recognize the needs and feelings of others as well as his own. I’m excited to see what he does next,” said Yager.