Austin Community College District (ACC) celebrates a record number of graduates at its spring 2022 commencement ceremony. More than 3,340 students are invited to participate Friday, May 13, at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
One of those students is Nathan Lu. Nathan is this year’s recipient of the ACC’s Chancellor Student Achievement Award. Here is Nathan’s journey.
Written by: Nathan Lu
Throughout the semesters that followed, I immersed myself in learning everything I could, from physics to calculus, and finally, programming. My first computer science class taught me that my age didn't matter in programming; coding enabled me to build anything I could imagine, from simple web pages to complex machine learning models to predict stock prices. I began creating personal projects, organizing after-class study groups, and teaching friends to code. School wasn't about my grades; it was about learning new things to share with others. I went from Calculus 1 to Linear Algebra in a year, studied how computers executed code, and experimented with drone cartography, a process in which multiple photos are stitched together to make a huge map. I felt like a sponge, and while I still took my high school courses, my primary concentration was soaking up information everywhere I could.
One night, exhausted from juggling a full-time college and high school course load, I stared blankly at the never-ending list of errors generated by my most recent computer program. I knew that if I didn't meet individuals who shared my goals of impacting the world through software, I would burn out attempting to do everything independently. I couldn't help but wonder if other students were experiencing similar problems.
A week later, I started the Computer Science Club at Austin Community College, where students could socialize, collaborate on projects, get homework help, and learn from guest speakers. For the first time, I shared my passion for coding and experienced the direct impact of leadership by creating an environment of over 230 students to have a safe place to learn from each other and share their challenges. I was even appointed as co-chair of Honors in Action, a committee dedicated to raising cybersecurity awareness among parents.
I had never taken a step back and considered what I had accomplished since beginning my college studies. I was developing not only as a leader but also as a person. Questions that I used to have had become chances to teach others. My goal was never to graduate early or become a "child prodigy," but rather to learn the inner workings of the technology around us. Whenever I felt like I was the odd one out, my mentor's comments returned to me, reminding me that being different was my strength.
During my final year at Austin Community College, I tried every opportunity that came my way, from student journalism to holding workshops for students who were still learning computer science fundamentals. I learned about data modeling, machine learning, and application development and used those talents in numerous coding competitions and hackathons. When I finally earned two associate degrees, I realized that the degrees were merely paper, but the knowledge I had gained would last me forever. My journey through the educational system has shown me that regardless of my age, I can make a difference in the world around me.