We navigate through hallways crowded and buzzing with teenagers shuffling in packs to class, stopping only for brief moments of conversation with passing friends. It seems like an ordinary US high school, but Dunbar High School in Fort Myers is anything but typical. A glance into a classroom reveals technology galore — in fact, it looks and feels more like a technology incubator or a hackathon — there’s even a full-blown live TV newsroom — than a classroom. The walls of the school are lined with awards celebrating tech excellence and world champions in the high school tech world. Here, geeks and tech studs walk with the swagger usually associated with HS sports stars. As the nation’s only Microsoft certified high school, Dunbar attracts some of the most talented tech-focused students in Southwest Florida.
All schools have their hall-of-famers. At Dunbar, one former student Tyler Millis’ achievements still echo through the halls. Students gushed about his accomplishments; many considered him an idol and inspiration. We met the Dunbar High School legend via Skype. Tyler graduated from Dunbar in 2016 and earned an academic free ride to the holy grail of tech colleges, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a computer science major and is every bit as impressive as his former classmates described him. Going through his long list of achievements, Tyler modestly mentioned that at 16-years-old he reigned as world champion of PowerPoint 2007, surpassing 123 other finalists. For Tyler, Dunbar provided a unique and special experience, which helped differentiate him as a student:
“Learning technology, networking, and certifications really gave me [experience], that kind of learning set me up to go to a place like MIT. I know a lot of the stuff I’m doing now at MIT is a lot easier for me because of my experiences at Dunbar.”
Tyler believes that Dunbar High School provides options that other high school students simply don’t have access to. Tyler took advantage of the certification programs offered at Dunbar, which subsequently landed him an internship at Chico’s FAS Inc. as a high school junior. Through this experience, Tyler gained real-world knowledge working at a corporation”There are a lot of ways I’ve realized that Dunbar really connects students with the real world. It’s not just pure education, there’s a lot of things within the academies to reach out to business partners or companies to really show students this is how it is in the real world.”
“There are a lot of ways I’ve realized that Dunbar really connects students with the real world. It’s not just pure education, there’s a lot of things within the academies to reach out to business partners or companies to really show students this is how it is in the real world.”
In asking Tyler his thoughts on being considered an idol he responds, “I think it’s awesome that people have high expectations and they’re reaching for high goals, but I also really encourage people to do what they want to do.” Tyler admits that he doesn’t have a role model, but instead he focuses on his own personal goals rather than trying to reach the achievements of others, “I think it’s really important to do what you want to do and accomplish and create your own goals.”
The young tech all-stars of Dunbar High School are impressive and astoundingly talented. In addition to Tyler, we met 10th graders that have started tech companies, and most tech students already have skill sets that make you wonder how long it will be before tech hungry businesses will start to recruit them. Many of them are prepared for the workforce even before graduation. They are talented, driven, and avidly defining a path for future technology innovation roles.