Alumni Spotlight: Zak Griffin

by | Oct 30, 2019 | Alumni

We reached out to Willow alumnus Zak Griffin, Class of 2017, to ask him some questions about what he’s up to now and how Willow has helped him in his journey.
Give us a brief summary about yourself.
I’m a junior at Gill St. Bernard’s right now, and I spend most of my time in a dark room staring at a computer screen yelling at inanimate objects (otherwise known as programming). At Gill, I’m programming captain of the robotics team, as well as an epee fencer that also sometimes fences foil when the team is in dire need. I play the drums whenever given the chance (this includes whenever in the presence of any remotely suitable loud surface). I also perform as a member of the now semi-dissolved, all Willow alumni band, Negativ3, formerly comprised of Gustavo Amaral, Andre Golumbeski, Miles Griffin, Noelle Iati, and Sean Flanagan… (and Will Collins). I enjoy watching YouTube videos at absurd hours of the night, and because of this, I can’t say I’m ever fully conscious.
How did Willow prepare you for high school?
Willow taught me a lot about how to find my own methods for learning. It’s not uncommon that my stubbornness to do things a certain way will have me asking, “Why are you telling me to do that? What does any of this matter?” That could sometimes really stop me from doing what I needed to get done. But I think Willow showed me how to sort out what I value in my education, and how I can get things done without stressing out. Well, at least without stressing out more than is necessary.
What are you most proud of doing since you left Willow?
Since I’ve left Willow, I’ve had a lot of time to figure out what really interests me. Most notably, I’ve become extremely interested in programming. I had an itch for coding in middle school, which led me to join a programming club with another Willow alumni, Henry Ingrey. Our project didn’t ever see completion, but I have to give credit to our mentor, Chip, for giving me my first taste of combining logical thinking, mathematics, and most of all, patience in reading documentation together to accomplish a task. Because of this introduction, I even did some code teaching over the summer, which I really want to do again at some point.
In my three years being a Willow alumni, I’ve worked on a bunch of coding projects written in several languages (Java, Javascript, and most recently Python) for all sorts of things. Most recently, I worked on a project for my school’s robotics team that does optical screw/bolt recognition for sorting. In other words, I use a camera to help organize all the mixed up screws hanging around our shop. If you’d like, you can check out the projects I work on here. Most of it is boring, unfinished stuff, but maybe there’s something in there that could spark someone else’s imagination!
What is your favorite virtue? Why? How has it helped you in your day-to-day life?
I would say that my favorite Willow virtue would have to be diligence. I really resonate with the mindset that anything is possible if you keep at it and put everything you have in, and I feel like Willow really taught me that. There have been plenty of late night essays and projects that have had me wanting to just give up, close my laptop, and go to sleep, but I think Willow’s emphasis on diligence taught me that if I just put a little more in, then whatever I’m working on will eventually develop into something I’m proud of.
What do you miss the most about Willow?
I think what I miss most of all about Willow is the friendly community. There was something very pleasant about growing up with the same ten or so students and knowing each other so closely. The small class size definitely led me to look for a school like Gill, but it just isn’t the same as the friendliness of walking into advisory in the morning and making hot chocolate in little palm-sized cups and chatting about classes, knowing you all have the same assignments coming up. It really was nice.
Thanks Zak for giving such in-depth answers to our questions. Tune in next month for another exciting installment of the Alumni Spotlight! Email Madie Schulte at to nominate yourself or another alumni for a spotlight.

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