Innate Curiosity

by Oct 18, 2023Education, Kids, North Brunswick

Fourth-year Early College High School student David Utz has a passion for learning about the world around him and sharing his interests with others.

David Utz, now in his fourth year at Brunswick County’s Early College High School in Supply, has interests that encompass prehistoric times, nations around the world and science. He says he will major in biology whether he attends UNC Chapel Hill, N.C. State or UNC Wilmington.

Learning about other cultures is one reason he joined the International Club at Early College High School (ECHS). His friendliness, curiosity and diplomacy are the ideal combination for being elected president of the club.

“One of the most important things in this world is connecting with people and understanding others,” the Leland resident says. “I think it’s very important for everyone to learn how other people live.”

The teen emphasized this point at the club’s meeting when the dozen-plus members discussed the Solomon Islands, the topic of its display at the annual Intercultural Festival on October 8. Utz suggested this island group, which is in the western South Pacific, because it is not well known.

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“What is most interesting about that culture is how they used shells and feathers for currency,” he says. Its currency today is SI$, the Solomon Islands dollar.

“One of the benefits of the Intercultural Festival is learning about different cultures outside of our own,” Utz says.

Utz’s own international travels include Italy, Greece and Turkey on a school tour.

“It was a surreal experience to be in a culture that’s not my own,” he says. “I want to bring that joy to other people so they can learn about the world and be excited about everything the world has to offer.”

ECHS social studies teacher and International Club sponsor Christian Clark says he is impressed with Utz’s ability to run the International Club, essentially by himself, while keeping his peers engaged. “It’s not easy to get in front of peers and lead a session at any age, and David does it exceptionally well,” Clark says.

Growing up, Utz says he wanted to be a paleontologist because dinosaurs fascinated him, especially the Spinosaurus.

“I want to investigate endangered species anywhere around the world,” he says. “There are so many, sadly. I just want to make a difference.” The King Cheetah is one he would like to preserve. “While it’s not the rarest subspecies, it is still extremely so.”

His love of biology and endangered species has earned him an internship with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Every Friday he accompanies biologist Sarah Finn to Masonboro Island Reserve to investigate turtle nests.

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“It’s awesome,” he says. “From the tiny eggshells suddenly you see something like a mothball. You let these tiny green turtles out of their shell, and they waddle to the waves. It’s just beautiful.”

Finn says Utz has volunteered with her since July.

“He is intelligent, curious about new subjects and asks great questions,” she says. “I’m impressed with David’s willingness to dive into new experiences and endure sometimes very challenging conditions in the field.” She explains that working with the sea turtle nests requires walking the nine miles of Masonboro Island in the heat while carrying supplies. “It’s not for the faint of heart!” she says.

As a child of veteran parents, Utz lived in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and South Dakota before his family moved to Leland in 2016.

His father, David, is deputy chief and harbor patrol operations officer at Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, and his mother, Daria, is marketing director at Domin & Schwartz Real Estate Group in Wilmington. His sister, Kaitlyn, is in fifth grade at Town Creek Middle School.

Utz says he spends his free time:
• Working out at Brunswick Community College Dinah E. Gore Fitness and Aquatics Complex. “Weight training is challenging yet fun,” he says.
• Playing video games. “My favorites are Dark Souls, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Assassin’s Creed.”
• Collecting JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures and Jujitsu Kaizen, both Japanese manga series about those with supernatural powers taking down supernatural foes.
• Going to the beach

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Utz also enjoys spending time with his dog, Diesel, a German shepherd-Chihuahua mix. “He’s the best boy in the whole wide world,” he says. “He’s happy as ever and has so much energy.” Utz says the family discovered Diesel lying on a road after Hurricane Florence hit in 2018. “He didn’t have tags, and because he was so small, he looked like he was born during the hurricane,” he says.

Utz believes people benefit by being involved with others.

“One of the most important things in this world is connecting with people and understanding them,” he says. “The relationships are beautiful. I joined the International Club to pursue my passion, and I became president to spread it.” He pauses and adds, “Experience what the world has to offer. Why else would it exist?”