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Student Highlight: Zack Olson

Student Highlight: Zack Olson

Zack Olson is a senior at Summit High School. He is active in theatre, music, academics, and volunteerism. He is an asset to the school and the Summit community.

Zack has a zest for the performing arts. As a middle school student at Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School, Zack became involved in theatre; from there his interest continued to grow. He was part of many theatrical productions including a total of eight plays and musicals that have occurred throughout his high school career. "I really enjoy performing for people," said Zack. "I also love the friendships you form from being part of a theatre group." One memorable experience for Zack was when he ventured to Scotland in 2016 for two weeks with the Theatre Department, chaperoned by Anne Poyner and Wayne Mallette. During that trip, he played Judas in Godspell at the Fringe Festival, a theatre arts festival (the largest in the world) in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Zack is also a talented musician. As part of the Music Department, he plays Alto Sax in the Jazz Band and Wind Ensemble. Junior year he sang in the New Jersey All-State Choir and currently, he is part of the Summit High School Chamber Choir. Playing piano is part of his life as well, and he plays pipe organ at Central Presbyterian Church in Summit.

Zack is involved in two extracurricular clubs at SHS. As president and founder of the Food Critics Club, he and fellow club members write monthly articles for the Verve about local restaurants in Summit and surrounding towns. In addition to it being a positive social experience, they like critiquing food and the overall dining experience. Zack is also Treasurer of the Family Promise Club at SHS. Family Promise is a national non-profit organization that helps the homeless, and its headquarters is in Summit. His grandmother, Karen Olson, started it 30 years ago. Every two weeks, families are housed in various places of worship where they benefit from shelter and food, as well as assistance with the following: job placement, affordable housing searches, and parenting classes. "I like preparing the food, but even moreso, I have always enjoyed interacting with the kids and families," said Zack. The SHS Family Promise Club fundraises for the organization and arranges teams of volunteers. Since the club's inception three years ago, they have raised over $25,000.

Zack values education and works hard to earn good grades. He has been part of the Speech and Debate team for his entire high school career. He competes in Duo Interpretation and Dramatic Interpretation. Recently, he and his partner Erin Manion qualified in Duo to compete in the prestigious National Speech and Debate Tournament held in Alabama this June. They will perform a piece called Jurassic Park. Zack is part of the STEM League, run by Jodi Friedman. Teams, made up of juniors and seniors, go to statewide competitions; this year Zack's team took 1st place in the New Providence competition. In addition to having a passion for science, he enjoys STEM challenges, problem solving, and teamwork. Zack had an exciting run in the Poetry Out Loud competition this year. Thanks to the encouragement of his English teacher, Anne Weisgerber, Zack joined the SHS competition where he recited two pieces and won. He went on to perform at two subsequent competitions, winning the regional competition in South Orange at the Performing Arts Center and making the final round at TCNJ's state competition. "Through this experience, I got much better at analyzing poems and really understanding the intricacies of words and their meanings," said Zack. "I have a newfound appreciation for poetry." Zack attributes a lot of his success to his time management skills. He is also proud of his willingness to be true to himself and do what is right, even if it is difficult. "I credit my resilience to my grandmother," said Zack. "She persevered through various struggles, and is a role model to many."

In the fall, Zack is set to attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. "I may study international affairs, and minor in music and Japanese," said Zack. The story behind that is an interesting one. Four years ago he got a new laptop and while looking for software, he stumbled upon Rosetta Stone for Japanese. He decided to try it, and got hooked! After completing that program, he began taking weekly sessions with a tutor. In 2016 he decided to do a Japanese immersion program. He took the initiative to locate a language school and stayed with a family in Tokyo. While there, Zack also had an internship with a non-profit called Hands on Tokyo. His role was to design a curriculum to teach English to Japanese children, and he also was invited to teach a group of elementary students in Fukushima.

No matter what courses of study Zack may elect to take, what new hobbies he may choose to explore, or where he may travel, he has had a positive impact on Summit High School and the Summit community.... and his future is bright!