Ames High School senior Jacob Hess says he went to a pretty good high school in Minnesota before he moved to Ames in 2013 as a sophomore.
“My school had a good variety of AP classes and a chance to take some classes at the community college,” he said.
So the prospect of packing up and moving to central Iowa did not appeal to him, he said.
“I wasn’t thrilled about moving to Ames, but academically it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Hess said.
By the time Hess graduates from Ames High School in the spring, he will have earned more than 18 college credits and completed more than a year of internships, he said.
“It all started when I talked to Dr. (Mike) Avise,” Hess said.
When Hess was placed in a freshman study hall upon arrival at Ames High School because the sophomore study halls were full, he looked for ways to avoid becoming even further disgruntled.
Avise recommended that Hess look into the school’s Extended Learning Program.
With the help of the ELP staff, support from Industrial Technology teacher Kent Jahn and the encouragement of some upperclassmen, Hess learned he could enroll in classes at Iowa State University to pursue his interest in computer programming while gaining college credits.
“I’ve been interested in computer programming since seventh grade,” he said, recalling the time he was home from school sick for several days and became so bored he started looking at “how-to” YouTube videos about Python, a widely used general-purpose programming language.
“I guess I was Inspired by my dad, who always tells me to put time to a good use, and my uncle, who’s a professional computer programmer who uses Python from time to time,” he said.
While taking Computer Science 227 at ISU, Hess applied for and was chosen for an internship with ISU’s Institute for Transportation, or InTrans. His work focused on writing a computer program to visualize traffic data.
“With a hobby-level background in coding and what I learned in Comps Sci 227, I wrote a program to convert thousands of lines of data into 3D graphics,” he said.
The program got noticed not just by leaders at InTrans, but also by a lead software engineer at the Iowa Department of Transportation, Hess said.
Hess, who has decided to pursue a mechanical engineering major at ISU, says Ames HIgh School does a good job preparing students for higher education.
“Open campus and free periods, and taking classes at a major university has really helped me in managing time and being responsible and self-motivated,” he said. “If you want to push yourself academically, there are countless numbers of opportunities.”