Like many of his peers, Zach Burke started high school unsure of what he might do with the rest of his life.
Today, the Prospect High School senior has a clear picture of his future career path – computer science – after spending his entire high school career in District 214’s IT pathway, where he also has taken two Advanced Placement courses that focus on his career interests.
Zach’s passion for coding began in his iOS mobile app development course as a freshman. During the course, taught by Frank Novak, he gained a basic knowledge of computer programming language, built nine apps and discovered how coding combines creativity and problem-solving.
“I was hooked and decided I wanted to join the level two class,” Zach said.
As part of the second-level computer science course, which was set up as a dev shop and taught by Paul Hennig, Prospect staff members pitched students several app ideas to help solve real-world problems. Zach chose to work with the school’s college counselor, Diane Bourn, who wanted to make the college application process easier and more organized for students.
Zach designed an app called OCP to help students keep track of the universities they are interested in applying to, and manage logins, passwords and application requirements. OCP, which stands for Organized College Planner, also lets students compare different colleges and is now on every student iPad at Prospect.
After the course ended, Zach continued to work on the app and take computer science courses. During his junior year, he entered OCP in the 2016 Congressional App Challenge and won, giving him the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. There, he presented his app to members of Congress and leaders from the national tech community.
“That was easily the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” said Zach.
Zach is already working with two universities on the app, which is in the app store, and plans to study computer science in college. He has been using the app to navigate his personal college application journey.
In August, Zach spoke at an Illinois Community College Board event about how the IT pathway helped him discover his passion and led him to the nation’s capital.
“High school is supposed to help prepare us for college and what we want to do during (college) and after,” said Zach. “Not a lot of high schools have an amazing computer science program like Prospect does.”