Princeton-Bound Grad Wrote the Book on High School

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This story is part of a series of profiles the Ventura County Office of Education is presenting about graduating seniors in the Class of 2024.

Danny3When Danny Smiley was in 10th grade, he decided to write some notes for his little sister Katie who was getting ready to join him as a student at Ventura High School. “I took a lot of really challenging classes and I loved them, but they were a lot to handle,” he recalled. “I wanted to give my sister the best chance she could possibly have to succeed.”

c24w-v2Katie was so appreciative of the help from her brother, that he kept writing more… and more… and more. Today, Danny’s Handbook for High School spans 70 pages and covers everything from navigating classes to starting a club to applying for college. Other topics include where to park your car, how to stay organized, and even a primer on conjugating Spanish verbs.

When you look at Danny’s high school resume, it’s no surprise he had enough material to fill a book. In addition to taking multiple advanced placement courses, he played on the golf team, volunteers at his church, and recently became an Eagle Scout. 
Danny is a self-described nerd with a passion for science. His experiment evaluating Elon Musk’s hyperloop transportation concept won a first-place prize in the Ventura County Science Fair that’s presented by the Ventura County Office of Education. He even has a section with science fair tips in his handbook. 

Danny-KatieWhen he was in middle school, Danny became fascinated by rockets. “I saw a particularly spectacular rocket launch and it kind of changed my life. It was an awesome moment where I could see my future ahead of me.” Danny went on to found the Ventura High School Rocket Club, which holds bottle rocket launch competitions. 

This fall, Danny will be heading to Princeton University, which has been his dream school since he was a kid. “That's been my number one school since I was probably about three years old when I visited the campus for the first time and I fell in love. It's such a beautiful place and such an amazing opportunity for me to go and spend the next four years of my life.” He plans to major in mechanical and aerospace engineering with the goal of having a career in the aerospace industry. 

As for his high school handbook, he hopes to get it printed and bound so it can have a permanent home in the Ventura High School library. “High school is an amazing time to experiment and find out what stuff you like and what you're into. And I want to make sure that everybody's making the most of it that they possibly can.”

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