Alumni Newsletter: Zach Jenkins ’17 Feature

Zach Jenkins ‘17, a Palm Valley “lifer” who now attends Lake Forest College (Class of 2021), offers insights based on lessons imparted after his first school year away from the desert.


Make new friends: At Palm Valley, you know everyone and you’re all friends. When you get to college, you have to learn to build a new group of friends. It was different, but the nice thing about going to college, especially during freshman year, is that everyone else is also confused and an outsider. Everyone’s looking for someone else to hold on to, which makes making friends easier. Living on campus and with your peers all the time, you get close to a lot of people quickly. Everyone’s in the same boat, trying to figure out what type of person you’re going to be in college.

But keep the old: Someone set up a Snapchat group that the entire class is on. We all chat, send stuff back and forth that relates to something we did in high school. If we ran into each other, we’d post a picture and it would start up a conversation. We have tons of inside jokes, like about things Ms. Steinman would say that we’d all crack up about.

The Winds of Winter: Most everyone wants to get out of the desert heat. I was in a small group who was okay with the palm trees and the 102 degrees. I ended up in the Midwest, where the winters are harsh. Going from the desert to Illinois was something else. It is so cold. I’d never owned a snow jacket before. I recommend getting a good jacket. You can get away with hiking shoes rather than snow boots, but the jacket is the most important thing. Also, it’s a pain, in general, to get going when you have an early class; I can’t imagine doing that during the winter. The weather app on your phone -- check it religiously and don’t trust it at all. Just subtract ten degrees; that’s how it feels.

Money, money, money:  I picked my college for the scholarships it offered. That was the main reason behind it. It is nice to know my student debt is going to be small, as opposed to a heavy burden. I really do appreciate that Palm Valley got me so geared toward that.  I felt like it was the right decision, that Mr. Hewitt had helped steer me to the colleges that were right for me. There was really no going wrong with any of my choices. Looking back at my freshman year, I had a great first year of college and that’s something that a lot of Palm Valley students may not realize -- college is going to be a lot of fun.

Know thyself: I’ve settled on a business major. I wasn’t sure going into college. I started undeclared. My entire family is into business. I enjoy it. Others found new passions. David Kocen, a PVS classmate of mine, he’s a triple-major now.

Surviving dorm life: I’m very fortunate - I got a position as a resident advisor for next year, so I’ll be living on campus again in a freshman dorm. Have a snack drawer. Use shower shoes. Clif Bars - they’re a miracle food. Be smart and eat a Clif Bar. Get a good coat. Get involved. That’s general for all colleges and that’s how you meet people. Follow the stuff you were interested in at Palm Valley because it carries over to college. I got involved in student government, which was really nice. It’s a passion of mine and I didn’t realize it until Palm Valley. I picked up model U.N. again, too.

You were right: I hate to admit it, and I’d never actually admit it to her, but Ms. Steinman made us write a 15-page paper at the end of AP Government which all the seniors hated so much, but her style and helping us to set up that entire paper was super-useful for college. In other ways, because I have more choices, I’ve been doing my absolute best to avoid STEM. As a business major, I can avoid chemistry and biology. One thing that Mr. Hewitt explained, when we were all hanging out in his office one day, was about how you can change your personality and be a little more expressive when you go to college. It’s true.

Stay tuned for the full Alumni Newsletter, coming Fall 2018. To receive this newsletter, update your information on our alumni form.