Sleep might be at a premium for Zac Cappella, but that’s hardly the case with his grades, work or extra curricular activities
Even with a cell phone stuffed into his pocket, you probably won’t have much luck tracking down Zac Cappella.
The East Stroudsburg University sophomore’s schedule is booked to the max. In fact, his calendar is so jammed packed that his father, Mario Cappella, isn’t quite sure how his son is maintaining a 4.0 GPA as a dual major who has multiple jobs, is in the band, is a note-taker for disability services, serves as treasurer of the computer science organization and is an Orientation Leader.
“His mother and I wonder how he has the time to do all of that and still have the workload and the GPA he’s carrying,” Mario Cappella said.
Zac Cappella credits his parents – especially his mom – for his ability to juggle multiple tasks and his understanding of the importance of putting school work ahead of all other activities
“When I was little, I walked in the door, put my backpack down and sat on a big bar stool and did my homework,” he recalled. “My mom said the faster I finished, the more time I’d have to myself.”
That, though, didn’t mean he could rush and then park himself in front of their gaming system. Zac and his older brother Samuel weren’t allowed to play video games during the week.
Clearly, that tactic helped. Zac graduated seventh in a class of 378 students at Bangor High School in 2012 and was awarded the Board of Governors Science and Technology Scholarship, which allows him to attend ESU tuition-free. He also was honored with the Richard and Claire Hahn Scholarship.
“I appreciate it now as I see some of the kids who are not nearly as disciplined and can’t get away from video games,” Zac said.
Years after the strict rules have been lifted, Zac still finds himself shying away from video games during the week and puts his energy elsewhere. The computer science and computer security dual major somehow squeezes in 20 hours of work a week as an Orientation Leader and as a work-study student in the office of student affairs and the computer science department. He’s also in the university marching, concert, jazz and pep bands and the percussion ensemble. He applied and was chosen to be a note-taker for students with disabilities. He recently joined the student conduct board. And when he’s needed and has time, particularly over breaks, he works at Domino’s in Pen Argyl.
His schedule of going to bed between 11:30 p.m. and midnight and getting up by 6:30 a.m. is one many couldn’t handle, let alone thrive in. But Zac does.
“He has an inner motivation and drive that is uncharacteristic of most university students,” said Patti Kashner, assistant to the vice president for student affairs who also oversees career development, orientation and new student programs and the women’s center. “He has a desire to excel, and by doing so, his involvement in activities helps others.”
There has been nothing easy about being an orientation leader. It means Zac works nights and weekends at times to help staff events that require someone to get people seated, hand out paperwork, etc. For example, he was at the McMunn Planetarium until about 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, to make sure parents and children were making their way in out of the planetarium successfully. He was also swamped with responsibilities two weeks later during Homecoming festivities.
“You have to know what you’re signing up for,” he said. “I didn’t expect being an OL was going to be a walk in the park. I knew I would have to commit time. And whether [finishing a specific task as an OL] is part of my job or not, it’s something I wanted to do.”
Zac started as an OL this summer. In that five-and-a-half week stretch, during which he received his training and lived in Hemlock Suites, he met Michael Sachs, assistant vice president for student affairs. The two started talking and Sachs ended up offering Zac a job in his office. Shortly thereafter, Zac took on a three-and-a-half week project in which he created “At a Glance.”
The Power Point presentation, which appears on ESU’s web site, gives new and returning students a snapshot of the university. From there, individuals can follow any one of 117 hyperlinks to get more information about a specific area of interest.
“It took a lot longer than I thought because there were two weeks of checking facts and editing,” he said. “I found out that emails get lost along the way and I had to do a lot of one-on-ones with people. But it was a good experience, that’s for sure. It was a big patience tester. I can lose my patience quickly when things aren’t going perfectly but I realize now there’s no need to get impatient.”
Zac isn’t quite halfway through his time at ESU, but he can’t even measure the impact his experiences, particularly in the classroom, have had on him. And they’re only making him eager to dive more into the academic side of things.
“I love education. I love learning,” he said. “The amount I’m learning is extremely impressive and overwhelming sometimes, and when I think of how much I’m going to learn, I can’t wait to learn more. I feel connected to this school. It’s incredible how ESU makes you feel like family, that I know the president (Marcia Welsh, Ph.D.) and she knows me on a first name basis. And I know Dr. [Doreen] Tobin (vice president for student affairs) and I am amazed that she’d even give me a second thought. She is so busy but always makes sure to ask how I’m doing. Also, my professors are always available to talk about anything.
“I feel like I matter here a lot. That’s probably the one thing that has meant the most to me.”