Justin Zloty knows a little something about the importance of putting your best foot forward. He's the kind of kid who shows up to have his picture taken wearing a suit and tie and offers an earnest smile, a firm handshake and a polite "thank you" when it's all over.
The 18-year-old has proven his proficiency in mathematics and computers, skills he has been honing since the second grade, when he started designing educational games with his older brother, Joshua, using a TI-83 plus graphing calculator.
"I'm pretty good at mathematics," Zloty said. "I got a few perfect scores in math — 36 on the ACT math and 800 in the SAT mathematics level II test."
Then there is the music.
Zloty, an accomplished pianist, is preparing for an upcoming recital — in between studying for upcoming exams and writing all those papers.
"It's relaxing," he said of his late night and weekend practice sessions playing Chopin and the like. "I enjoy the order of classical music. It's pure. Today's music is sort of chaotic."
The second of four boys raised by Colleen and Dr. Martin Zloty, Justin Zloty has been propelled by a varied education: home school, private school and more recently, enrollment as a junior last year into the International Baccalaureate program at Land O'Lakes High, where he has earned accolades for his ability to thrive.
"In my eyes he's pretty amazing in the sense that I know how difficult a change that can be, not only as a regular program but the IB program, which is so rigorous," said Land O'Lakes guidance counselor Becky Gleaton. "Most of our (IB) kids start out in their freshman year. I am in awe of his motivation and his perseverance and his willingness to take on a challenge and just jump in feet first."
"He's just always been a diligent hard worker and focused on doing his best," said his mother, Colleen Zloty. "He's always been a good teacher for his brothers and other students in school — a real blessing to our family."
It's no stretch that Zloty would be at the top of a "go to" list when County Commissioner Pat Mulieri put out word that she was looking for someone to develop a website for the county's Mobile Medical Unit, a medical office on wheels that staffs a nurse practitioner, emergency medical technician and an outreach attorney and serves the uninsured and homeless at various sites throughout the county.
It was right up Zloty's alley: combining his interest in computers and medicine.
"It's definitely an amazing service," Zloty said of the mobile care unit. The website "helps connect those who are willing to give with those who are in need, allowing people to see how they can volunteer, recognizing those who donate and letting people know where the medical unit will be in the future so they can get medical help. The website will also help the medical unit to establish a reputation to help get donations and grants as well."
In February, Zloty was commended by Pasco County commissioners who proclaimed a resolution honoring his worth ethic, technical knowledge, interpersonal skills, diligence and professionalism in designing the site.
Between his hours spent volunteering as a peer tutor, a poll worker for the primary and general elections and assisting the activities director at Baldomero Lopez Memorial Veterans Nursing Home in Land O'Lakes, Zloty has well surpassed the volunteer hours required to earn his IB diploma, but still offered to work on the website.
"He just loves the thought of caring for people and making a difference in their lives," his mother said.
And that thought may propel him in his endeavor to follow in the footsteps of his father — a nuclear physician — and become a doctor, too.
Zloty has been accepted to a bunch of postsecondary schools, wait-listed at Harvard and will likely go to Cornell University, where he plans to pursue an education in medicine with the goal of becoming a surgeon.
"I want to go into medicine because it allows me to use my talents to directly help people — to help save their lives," Zloty said. "That's important to me."