Faculty members at Central Catholic High School are boasting about Zachary Aucoin, a junior who was recently selected to participate in the U.S. Naval Academy’s Summer Seminar program in June, a selection that has made his teachers and coaches proud.
“Zach’s character is top-notch,” said Chris Sanders, religion teacher and assistant football coach at CCHS and one of the faculty whom Aucoin said has had a strong effect on him.
“He is respectful, trustworthy, mature, self-aware, but even though he’s aware of his surroundings and his classmates, he’s one of the few who’s not particularly affected by his peers; he’s more of a driving force.
“He’s far from a follower. For the three years that I’ve known him, he’s never been one, even as a freshman,” Sanders said.
“He doesn’t get brought down, but he’s also not one to knock anyone else down. He’s more the guy who helps pick those around him up.”
Aucoin listed five faculty members who have strongly influenced him — Sanders, chemistry teacher Burt Adams, history teacher Anne Rhodes, Spanish teacher Karen Solar, and head football and track coach David Fuhrer.
“I know Coach Sanders has (affected me). I even selected him to be my confirmation sponsor,” Aucoin said. “And you definitely can’t forget about Coach Fuhrer. He’s basically been a part of my life since I got here with the summer weightlifting and football and for the shot put and discus.”
Both Fuhrer and Sanders said that Aucoin’s character comes from his upbringing, his family.
“I’m proud that he thinks that I had some influence on him, but his background plays a big part in that,” Fuhrer said.
Sanders agreed, saying that Aucoin has “had an excellent upbringing. He comes from a good family. He understands expectations, he understands morals and he understands rules, even when he doesn’t agree with them.”
Aucoin spoke of his family’s military background, including his father Leonard Aucoin’s service in Vietnam, when he described how he learned of the program and sought to participate in it.
“I always knew about the service academies and their summer seminars,” he said. “My uncle is in the Army special forces, so I’ve always been interested in the military,” Aucoin said.
L. Aucoin expressed pride and excitement in the news.
“I’m really excited. It’s real hard to get into these programs, and he did it all himself. I’m really proud of it. I’m almost speechless. He works really hard, and I think he deserves it,” the elder Aucoin said.
Barrí Moore is Aucoin’s mother.
The younger Aucoin described how he learned of the program and applied for it.
“I wanted to find out more about the service academies. On their website, they had this summer seminar, and that’s where I found it,” Aucoin said. He submitted the online application for the program in January.
“My whole family is military. My Dad was in Vietnam. It’s almost a family tradition,” he said, adding that both of his grandfathers served in the military.
Aucoin said that he has “not so much fear but anxiousness.
“I’m a little nervous about it. They gave us a mock schedule of what’s going on, but I know you ain’t going to really find out until you get there,” he said. “I expect to gain a lot, to learn a lot about myself, what I’m capable of doing. I know it’s almost like a leadership program. So, I’d like to see how good of a leader I can be, what my limits are, how I stack up against the rest of the nation,” he said.
Fuhrer said that Aucoin is very competitive.
“I don’t think he’s ever satisfied. In track, once he gets his personal best, he resets his goals,” Fuhrer said. “He sets reasonable goals.”
Sanders has seen similar in Aucoin.
“He does have a competitive spirit, but it’s not ambitious. It’s not ‘I have to be better than you.’ It’s more like ‘let’s see how my best matches up with your best,’” Sanders said.
Competition for Aucoin, Sanders said, is more from inside-out rather than pressure from the outside-in.
“It’s a delicate balance” but Aucoin balances it well, Sanders said.
“He’s humble, but he’s not meek; he’s confident, but he’s not arrogant,” Sanders said of Aucoin, whom he said usually doesn’t say much in his religion class unless he’s asked something.
“It’s fun to have him in class. I do try to get him to participate, because when he does, he’s an excellent springboard for controversial ideas because he assimilates new knowledge really efficiently,” Sanders said.
“He’s not a sheep. He’s not one to immediately follow and say ‘yes.’ He’s not one to shy away from challenging topics,” Sanders said.
Both Fuhrer and Sanders said that that is how Aucoin behaves on the football field and practice fields as well.
“He’s not a rah-rah, cheering guy; he’s far from that. Zach is much more the quiet, resolute, determined type of leader.” He leads by example first and speaks later, Sanders, who has coached Aucoin in football for the last three years and taught him religion the last two years, said.
“He’s not a man of many words, but when you can get him to speak, what he has to say is excellent.”
Fuhrer, who also described Aucoin’s ways as absent of “rah-rah,” was unable to recall a specific incident that exemplified Aucoin’s character. “He’s not a guy that stands out, but that’s because he’s the guy that’s consistent,” Fuhrer said.
“It’s just his work ethic. He leads by example,” Fuhrer said.
Sanders said something similar. “He has a lot of responsibility as the center. He’s been the starting center since he was a sophomore.”
The experience at the summer seminar will be intense, with a schedule that’s booked with activity for all but seven hours of each day (which participants will need to sleep), and a schedule that includes plenty of physical exercises.
Perhaps what Aucoin contributes to classroom discussions stems in some small part from the one previous experience that he said involved being around young leaders from across the country and exposed to their ideas.
“In eighth grade, I got selected to go to D.C. for a leadership forum for a week, and that was very interesting. Two other classmates and I got selected to go,” he said, adding that it has prepared him for “a little bit of what to expect, like the way things are run” in his upcoming experience at the Naval Academy, where he says he could imagine himself attending.
Although he said that he has some near-term goals, Aucoin said that he’s open to anything, and is eager to learn from this experience so that he can decide what he wants to do beyond college and military experience.
“I really have no clue what I want to do,” he said with a smile. “I guess this is one of the reasons why I’m going, just to find out what they offer, different programs I can get selected to while I’m there.”
However, Aucoin said he still has some goals for the early part of his adulthood.
“I definitely want to go to college, definitely like to graduate, and I know I want to join the military at some point. So, I think this is the best way of going about it, going to the Academy, getting my four years in the Academy, and serving the time after,” he said.
Aucoin is interested in a variety of academic subjects at CCHS.
“I like history and science; chemistry. I’m looking forward to physics next year. I’m pretty good in math, even though I don’t like it,” he said.
His head football coach seems to agree that Aucoin’s diverse and strong academic background, as well as his endeavors in sports, prepare him well for both contributing to and gaining from this program.
“I think he’s a great candidate for this program with the qualities that he has, his leadership, his character, his endeavors in the classroom,” Fuhrer said. “He’s a hard-working kid, a fine young man, and it’s a great honor for him to be able to experience this.”