Young student is a boy wonder



“Graduated cylinder!”








“We need metric,” he says, wearing goggles to protect his eyes, in case the chemical reaction experiment doesn’t go as planned. 


The scene isn’t a laboratory, and this is no mad scientist. 


DVC student Zenon Davis, 14, sits at his kitchen table, his mother and two younger siblings watching as he mixes sodium bicarbonate with acetic acid to release a sodium acetate byproduct. 


Zenon now holds a balloon filled with gas from mixing vinegar and baking soda. 


“Why do you think this is important?” his mother, Vivian Davis, asks.


“So they can find a cure for cancer?” he replies sarcastically, knowing his mother knows he already has the answer.

“This is the principle of limiting reaction,” he explains.


Just a typical Friday morning at the Davis household.


Zenon, who takes statistics and French 4 at DVC, is one of 687 students under the age of 18 who attend classes here, according to the college’s research office. 


Some are full-time college students, but the majority, like Zenon, is concurrently enrolled at another school, in his case a charter school through which he is home schooled.


“Being a home-schooler allows me to explore,” he says. “It’s really very liberating.”

Born in Canada, Zenon has traveled to France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Thailand, the Philippines, China, Japan, and lived for a year in Seoul, South


He studies and teaches white-tiger kung fu, plays ice hockey, does hip-hop dance, holds his own conversing in French and tutors adults in his stats class. In two months, he will compete, along with three other U.S. pianists, against musicians from all around the world.


Zenon began attending classes at DVC almost three years ago. 


“I started when I was 12, literally two days after I turned 12,” he says.


“Oh my god, he’s amazing,” says his French teacher, Julia Flanagan-Schmidt. “Except for the fact that he looks so young, you would never know from his work or how he interacts with other students.” 


Zenon has also tutored older students in his math classes, one paying him $15 an hour to do so. 


“It’s only girls,” he says, “I don’t know why… I think it’s because they’re more open.” 

After a few moments of contemplation he adds with total seriousness, “I don’t know, I might take psychology.”


Zenon also teaches younger students at his kung fu studio.


“If you can teach someone something,” he says, “you can understand it better.” 


The Davis household is set up to make learning fun.


The kitchen serves as the science lab. An adjacent room, separated only by a counter, is filled with books, games and every school supply a student could need. 


A huge world map takes up most of one wall and brightly colored paintings, mostly done by Zenon’s artistically-gifted 6-year-old sister, cover the others.


“The whole idea is for you to be exposed to ideas you want to learn,” says Vivian Davis. 


Although Zenon was academically ready to take classes at DVC at age 11, his parents decided to wait a year.


“You have to be aware of what they’re being exposed to,” his mother says.


They looked into putting Zenon in an English class, but decided not to, in part because the book, “Kite Runner,” which contains very graphic scenes, was on the syllabus.


The school also would not let him take science classes because of his age and small stature. 


“Safety issues,” explains Zenon. “I wanted to take chemistry. Now I’m just taking that at home.”


Zenon, who likes math and science, wants to become a geneticist, because “there is a lot of probability.”


In a couple of months, he will be 15.


“He’s always been very independent,” his mother says.  “He knows the path he’s going.”


Zenon plans to enroll next semester in French 5 and that psychology course.