As Zachary Shattuck looked back at his four years at South Carroll High School, he said he was astonished by how much his life had changed.
Four years ago, Shattuck was a home schooled student nervous about how his peers would treat him his freshman year of high school. Shattuck, a little person with dwarfism, said he was anxious about fitting in and finding activities to participate in.
Almost instantly though, he said, he was accepted by his fellow students and fell back into the swing of public schooling.
South Carroll principal Jeff Hopkins said he got to know Shattuck early on in both of their South Carroll careers.
"He was a freshman when I came on as principal," Hopkins said. "I had seen him participate in sports before getting to know him. The kids really enjoy being around him. He is such a positive influence at our school."
Shattuck said he worked to find ways to get involved with school activities early on.
"Freshman year, we have a talk with our counselors, and we talked about ways to get involved with the school," Shattuck said. "It was clear that basketball wasn't going to be in my future, but I grew up playing soccer, so I tried out for the team."
Shattuck played two years on the JV team before moving up to varsity, and started in more than half the games he played in his senior year. Shattuck said he's been told he's one of the first people with dwarfism to ever play on a high school varsity soccer team.
Last year, Shattuck was invited to participate in the 2013 World Dwarf Games, a series of competitions held every four years at locations around the world. In 2013, the event was held in East Lansing, Michigan, and featured nearly 400 athletes from 17 countries. Shattuck competed in seven sports, including soccer, basketball and swimming. In all, he brought home seven medals.
"It was a really special experience," Shattuck said. "Here, I compete against average-sized kids, but there, the playing field is leveled and I really get to compete."
Shattuck said it was interesting to compete in sports he normally doesn't have the chance to play. He said his gold medal win in swimming particularly came as a surprise to him. In addition to the world games, Shattuck also competes in the annual National Dwarf Games, which he said provides him a chance to speak with and inspire younger athletes.
"One of the coolest things about participating in the national games is that there are younger kids who are just now facing obstacles and deciding what they want to do in life,
Shattuck said. "They look up to you and see you competing and succeeding. It's neat for them to see someone who knows what they're going through at home."
In the fall, Shattuck will major in wildlife and fisheries at Frostburg State University. Shattuck said he's been interested in the outdoors ever since he was young.
"My family owns a cabin in West Virginia, and that's where I really started to appreciate nature," Shattuck said. "I want to look for a career that's focused on getting people involved in nature."
To prepare for his planned career in wildlife preservation, Shattuck began working at the Piney Run Park Nature Center in Sykesville.
"I went to camp there when I was in the fifth grade and I loved it," Shattuck said. "So I signed up for it with our counselor. When she suggested it, I jumped at the chance. I take my first two classes and then go to Piney Run until the end of the school day, but I end up staying longer each day because I enjoy it so much."
Shattuck helps with the park's special events, giving visitors background information on the animals housed there, as well as feeding and caring for the animals.