NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 25, 2011

From student to start-up

NHS senior awarded $100,000 fellowship

Newburyport High School senior Nick Cammarata is not the student who typically gets the highest grades.

He's been a good student with letter grades that peaked high and dipped low on occasion, depending on his level of engagement in the subject matter.

While his classmates were listening to teachers' lectures, his head was often buried in a book on the latest trends in computer programming.

That approach to learning is now paying off in a big way. The 18-year-old Cammarata is one of 24 youths worldwide selected by PayPal founder Peter Thiel to receive a $100,000 fellowship designed to promote scientific and technological advancement and entrepreneurialism.

Cammarata, who is set to graduate from Newburyport High next weekend, will forgo his acceptance into the computer science program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania and instead spend the next two years working to launch his start-up company.

On July 1, Cammarata will pack his bags and head to Palo Alto, Calif., where he will be supported by the Thiel Foundation in perfecting his personal design of a learning system that could upend what some consider stale models of teaching, which have dominated for decades.

Cammarata, who as young as 12 was keenly interested in having an impact on the way technology can serve mankind, said receiving a coveted $100,000 Thiel Fellowship is just about the most exciting thing that could have happened to him.

"Palo Alto is the hub of the world for start-ups," he said. "Every start-up that's gotten really popular, just about all of them are located in Palo Alto."

As one of the first members of the Thiel Foundation's 20 Under 20 Fellowship class, Cammarata will be following in the footsteps of the youngest self-made billionaire in the country, Mark Zuckerburg, who made his way to Palo Alto to design and market Facebook. And like Zuckerburg, Cammarata will receive some help in getting his idea up and running from another famous young entrepreneur, Thiel, who was the first outside investor in Facebook.

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