What do F. Scott Fitzgerald, Michelle Obama and Jimmy Stewart have in common?
They all have walked the hallowed halls of Princeton University. In a short time, Mark Skepasts will be added to that illustrious list of Princeton students. A Grade 12 student at Semiahmoo Secondary school in Surrey, Mark recently was accepted into the prestigious New Jersey school and will start a mechanical engineering program this fall.
Mark's family is understandably thrilled. “He really wanted to go to a smaller school, an environment where you just roll up your sleeves and get down to work. We never really thought Mark would get into Princeton," said his mother Charmaine.
How did Mark ace the interview with a recruiter he met in Vancouver recently and get accepted to Princeton? “I think I presented as a fairly well-rounded student - not only because of the courses I've taken at Semiahmoo in physics and chemistry - but because of my extracurricular activities and my music background, too.”
At Semiahmoo Secondary, Mark is in the international baccalaureate program, taking college-level courses. He's also on the student council and an executive member of the Globalizers Club, which works with the Me To We organization on issues of importance to children internationally. Mark ran the school’s Mental Health Week and co-chaired a recent grad fashion show.
But it is music that flows through the family like the sweet notes of Coltrane's saxophone. Mark plays jazz drums in a quintet these days - but he has rock-and-roll roots, too.
"We all play instruments," said Charmaine. "And when the boys were kids, the entire family took rock band lessons - with Mark on drums." Mark’s two older brothers stayed with music but Mark followed in his mother Charmaine's footsteps and chose an engineering path. "The thing about engineering is that it teaches you great analytical skills,” Charmaine said.
Mark's well-rounded nature will serve him well at his new school. Princeton pushes its students to take other courses - like philosophy - in addition to their chosen courses to make sure they become more multi-dimensional students.
Princeton does not like students to graduate with debt, so when Mark was accepted, Princeton provided Mark with $43,000 per year. It's a sign that Princeton really wants who it selects because it gets so many applications.
While he may be moving on, Mark can look back on his high-school years as a valuable education experience. “I've had really great teachers all through high school, who have not only cared about me but have inspired me as a person,” he said.
Learn more about B.C. student success stories.