Mark Botros was a typical little boy growing up in Johannesburg in South Africa who loved Spider-Man. He had Spider-Man sheets, Spider-Man clothes, Spider-Man everything. When his father came home with a Spider-Man computer game, Mark was excited.
Mark was only four, though, and “he didn’t even know how to operate this game,” according to Mary Botros, Mark’s mother. He kept coming to her for help. “Every time he’d ask I’d say, ‘Try it yourself,’” she said. So that’s what four-year-old Mark did. He sat at the computer until it all made sense, and he learned how to play his Spider-Man game. In fact, by the age of five, he had also learned how to disassemble and reassemble the entire computer.
In his early years as a student, Mark excelled in all of his studies but most notably, of course, in his computer class. In first grade, at the age of seven, he caught the attention of his computer teacher, who evaluated him and reported to his parents that his skill level far exceeded what was expected for a child his age. By the end of his first year of computer class, he earned an IT certificate — a certificate his mother still keeps — from his computer teacher as the top performer in the entire school.
That one certificate is just the first in what is proving to be a list of accomplishments, and it encouraged Mark to refine his computer skills and pursue his talents. He set his sights on goals that are usually in the scope of students 10 or more years older than he, but his supportive and encouraging parents had no IT experience. His dad is an agricultural engineer, and his mom studied to be a psychologist. “We just use the computer like a normal person,” she said of her and her husband’s level of computer literacy, “nothing else.” But they sought out opportunities to grow their son’s seemingly natural abilities.
When Mark was eight, he started to study in a local program to obtain his Golden e-Learner Certificate. By the age of 10, Mark was the first in the world to earn the International Computer Driving License (ICDL), which is a computer literacy certification program provided by the European Computer Driving License (ECDL) foundation.
Always supportive of her son and willing to nurture and encourage his strengths, Mary approached Boston City Campus and Business College in Krugersdorp, South Africa. Boston City Campus caters to students of all ages, offering courses in a variety of studies, one of which is CompTIA A+ certification.
“As one of South Africa’s premier tertiary education institutions, our recipe for success lies with approaching each and every student as an individual with unique needs, requiring unique assistance, support and advice,” Liza Kuhn, Boston City Campus branch manager, said. After getting CompTIA’s approval, Boston City Campus gladly accepted Mark into its A+ certification program and can now proudly say that its student population spans from the age of 12 to 66.
“My son is a clever boy with talents,” Mary said. “At school, he is doing very well. He’s not lazy. He lives as a normal child. He loves playing computer games and also PlayStation and Xbox. He does sports after school and he loves swimming.” With her experience as a psychologist, though, Mary has one concern. “I don’t want to take him into the adult world too quickly, but my son has big dreams and I am behind him 100 percent.”
Mark’s accomplishments – stemming from his early fascination with a computer game his dad brought home – are many. Mark is recognized as the youngest person in the world to pass CompTIA’s A+ certification at the age of 12. In January 2015, after taking some time off to pass his sixth grade exams, Mark will begin his N+ certification studies at Boston City Campus, and he expects to complete the course before he turns 13.
As the youngest student on a campus that spans multiple generations, “It’s a little scary to be with older kids,” Mark said, “and very interesting. [The other students] are very good people, and they were very nice to me. They helped me sometimes.”
That four-year-old boy, who was so determined to play his new Spider-Man computer game, has matured, and Spider-Man has been replaced with a more sophisticated, more technologically savvy hero — Bill Gates.
“My goal is to be the next Bill Gates,” he said. “I want to become a computer scientist and own my own computer business. I want to go to Harvard. I find [computers] fascinating because I feel like they are an incredible invention and there are many possibilities for the future.”
And there are, undeniably, many fascinating possibilities for Mark’s future, as well.