Carter County seniors are on their way to colleges and other institutes of higher learning all across the land, but few will be going as far as Happy Valley High School’s Zachary Stephens.
He’s leaving the green hills of Happy Valley for the green river valley of Dartmouth.
While Dartmouth’s status as an Ivy League school attracts many of the brightest and most able students in the nation, what made Dartmouth so appealing to Stephens was the entrepreneurship education offered there.
That’s where the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship is. The center takes students, faculty and alumni of Dartmouth “along the path from entrepreneurial thinking to entrepreneurial doing.” The center provides curriculum, experiences, funding opportunities and networking with Dartmouth’s alumni around the globe.
While Dartmouth’s focus on entrepreneurship is what attracted Stephens, he admits the Ivy League school’s deep pockets were important in the final choice.
Stephens said the New Hampshire school in the Connecticut River valley is the best in the nation for entrepreneurship education; he said the second-best is another Ivy League school beside the steel-and-concrete canyon of the Hudson River at Manhattan.
While Dartmouth offered Stephens a scholarship worth $220,000, Columbia more than matched the offer with a $260,000 scholarship. Stephens’ decision was finally reached when Dartmouth matched the $260,000 offer.
During his four years at Happy Valley, Stephens worked to make himself attractive to Ivy League and other top academic institutions. He worked to make himself a top scholar and to excel at extracurricular activities as well. It began early, with Stephens learning robotics in Happy Valley’s robotics program at the middle school and high school levels.
In academics, he took 11 advanced placement courses, including macroeconomics, microeconomics, physics I, physics mechanics, physics electricity and magnetism, calculus, statistics, U.S. history, computer science principles and others. He took courses at East Tennessee State University in introduction to political science and entrepreneurial mindset. He also scored 35 on the ACT.
“Dartmouth is not just looking at the numbers,” Stephens said of how applicants are evaluated. “It is trying to get a picture of the entire person,” he said. With Stephens, the school saw a person with strong academic ability, but a person who also excelled in athletics and social skills.
Stephens was a co-captain on the Happy Valley track team this year and ran the anchor leg on the 4×100 meter relay. He was also president of the Key Club and was in the Chess Club.
During the summer between his freshman and sophomore years, Stephens attended Austin Peay’s Governor’s School for Computational Physics. During his small amount of free time, Stephens experimented with entrepreneurship in various areas, such as cryptocurrencies.
As Stephens prepares to depart Happy Valley, he expressed his gratitude to the teachers who helped and guided him along the way. Those included two teachers who were also Key Club advisers: calculus teacher Megan Hall and statistics teacher John Miles. He also expressed his thanks to his counselor, Jennifer Ellis.