High marks gave him pick of almost any university

Tory Zimmerman/torstar news service


John Matienzo graduated with the highest marks in the Durham Catholic District School Board.

When John Matienzo almost missed his prom to go to the Skills Canada competition, his teachers knew a career in computer engineering was in his future.

And Matienzo, 18, could choose just about any university to achieve this after graduating with the highest marks in the Durham Catholic District School Board, finishing with a 97.5 per cent average at All Saints Catholic Secondary School in Whitby.

The Skills Canada national competition, held in Halifax, is an Olympic-style contest where students get to show off their smarts.

He designed a complex website for the competition and placed fourth in Canada this year — even though he was up against some post-secondary students.

“I’ve always been fascinated with computers, and engineering wasn’t something I wanted to go into until Grade 12,” Matienzo said.

“I’ve always liked the math and the sciences and I’m a curious person so I really like to know how things work.”

Nadine Browne, his computer programming teacher, knew from the time he was her student in Grade 11 that he was talented in the field.

She took him under her wing and helped him prepare for the competition.

With just a short time before the competition, Matienzo found out he needed to know a specific computer language that even his teacher didn’t fully understand.

Browne helped Matienzo study textbooks and computer codes to learn the language, which he soon mastered.

“For web design, I see her as my mentor,” Matienzo said. “She was the one that introduced me to the competition and flew with me to Halifax, even though she was six months pregnant.”

Since they worked for a few years to get into the nationals, Browne wanted to be there to watch him succeed, she said. She said she doesn’t get to teach students like Matienzo very often.

Aside from competing in a technology competition this year, Matienzo was also busy doing extra curricular activities.

He was part of the tech team at All Saints, assistant editor of the school newspaper, a Grade 12 rep for the student council, and was head of the website committee for his school.

Matienzo has accepted a $5,000 scholarship from the University of Toronto and will be studying computer engineering program in the fall.