Senior Profile: Zach Miller

Senior Profile: Zach Miller – Adventure, Grit and Grace
by Sheryl Blunt, AFA Parent and Freelance Writer 

Zach Miller remembers the thrill of his first scuba dive. It was in the Florida Keys and he got to see a “wall” of fish—a shimmering cloud of so many tiny fish that they appear as an impenetrable wall.

“You literally couldn’t see through it,” said Zach, who on another dive was able to “touch wild nurse sharks as they swam by.”

“It’s really cool to be able to go somewhere the human body is not intended to go,” he said. For him, the dives were transformative. Although he had always had a love and fascination with the ocean, it wasn’t until Zach started scuba diving that he decided, “This is what I want to do with my life.”

“It’s absolutely beautiful for one thing,” he said. “It’s also sad because you see signs of how the reefs are suffering. When you see that you want to do something to help it.”

Zach in the ocean

Zach is looking forward to more dives while studying Marine Biology and Business at Palm Beach Atlantic, a Christian university in South Florida where he will attend this fall. He wants to become a marine biologist and find ways to preserve the coral reef. For this avid diver, the school could not be in a better location.

“It’s right by the coral reefs and the eco systems we’re going to be studying,” he said, adding that he was also drawn to the university because “it seems extremely Christ-focused.”

Zach came to Ad Fontes for his junior and senior years after attending another Christian high school. He said one notable distinction was the emphasis AFA puts on critical and analytical thinking.

“The draw for me was that Ad Fontes really encourages critical thinking,” he said. “So I got to go to a place where we discussed topics that may not have clear answers. A lot of the critical thinking I did before I came here was very raw. I think AFA takes critical thinking and they refine it, into a skill.”

Zach senior photo

Zach said he particularly loved his History classes because his teacher, Mr. Dave Mathwin, encouraged students to think deeply about events and their moral and philosophical underpinnings.

“So often questions throughout history are morally-based,” he said. “Thinking about things in different ways and not necessarily coming to a conclusion make for really interesting discussions.”

While he feels that all of his AFA teachers have impacted him, Zach said he’s particularly enjoyed getting to know Mr. Ray Blunt, his World View and Senior Seminar teacher.

“I like Mr. Blunt because he’s an encourager and he builds relationships with his students,” he said. “He’s always seeking to push you to the next level whether it be spiritual, academic, or almost any other facet of life.”

Zach, who played both varsity baseball and varsity basketball while at Ad Fontes, also said he takes with him fond memories of playing for head Basketball Coach Jerry Cuffee.

“He’s is an amazing coach,” he said. “He builds a character and chemistry within the team that is hard to cultivate.”

Zach has enjoyed pursuing other interests at AFA, including singing and playing the piano, guitar, and ukulele. This year he also performed as a vocalist on AFA’s praise and worship team. Singing and songwriting are creative outlets that allow him to express himself, he said. “I love making music. I’m sure I will continue to write music throughout my life.”

He also found time outside of school to complete his Eagle Scout award last year. The award is the highest attainable rank within the Boy Scouts of America.

True to the Boy Scout’s oath that promises “to help other people at all times,” Zach is known by his teachers and peers for his helpfulness and servant leadership. As head of House Atlantis this year one of his jobs was “to care for the people in my house and make the house system a fun and productive program,” he said. His efforts have been noticed.

“His faith is very strong and he is very helpful to, and respected by the younger students,” said Mr. Blunt. “He has become one of the most respected House Leaders we’ve had. He takes his faith seriously and the school seriously.”

Zach said he believes his faith has been strengthened during his years at Ad Fontes by a renewed understanding of God’s grace and providence.

“Ad Fontes has challenged my faith in many ways, and challenged me to trust in God’s grace,” he said. “My testimony can be summed up in the phrase: ‘I am what I am through grace.’”

He said one of his sources of encouragement is a well-known Civil War prayer that was found on the body of an unknown Confederate States Army soldier who died near the end of the war.

“It talks about the grace of God and the power that He has to change your heart to be a Christ-like heart,” he said. In it, a soldier recounts asking God for certain things, but receiving unexpected answers. The prayer ends: “I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am among all men most richly blessed.”

Zach said understanding the role of God’s grace in his life has helped him to overcome perceived shortcomings and disappointments.

“The good things that I am, I am by God’s grace,” he said. “You don’t have to be defined by your inadequacies or insecurities because your adequacy comes from Christ.”