Posted on November 9, 2022
Categories: News from SDP, Student of the Month

Student of the Month
Jerusha Nelson
Excel South

At the School District we are privileged with the responsibility of helping thousands of students reach their goals. Every so often we come across a student who already knows where they’re going, and can clearly articulate how we can help them get there faster and better. Jerusha is precisely that student, and her positivity and enthusiasm are clear from the first introduction.

Jerusha’s family immigrated here five years ago from Pakistan, and have been very happy with their move, especially because of the wealth of educational opportunities and flexibility that Jerusha now has. An example – a high school change from George Washington to Excel South, which allowed Jerusha to delve into educational programming that more closely matched her goals. When she started at Washington HS, she was quickly recognized for her good grades and her innate ability to counsel people through challenges and build bridges between those who are different. She was on track to take legal prerequisites for a career as a lawyer but in speaking with the principal, her ambition and drive led to a recommendation to consider Excel’s accelerated program. “I’m so grateful that they helped me make the move here, since I could graduate early and that helped me get to my goal of joining the United States Air Force”, she remembers. “The principal gave me this choice. So initially it was about accelerating but it turned out to be a really good idea for so many other reasons”

Excel is a traditional 400-student Opportunity Network high school that partners with the District but follows the same curriculum. The school supports students who need to make up time or otherwise consolidate their high school degree into a shorter time frame. “We’ve set up our schedule like a college, so each year is organized into two semesters, and we use an accelerated model so students here can earn up to 10 credits a year vs. 6-7 at most other high schools. Those are transferable too, should a student decide to matriculate into another school”, said Jarrad Muller, Executive Director at Excel.

Mr. Muller, who made it clear he was representing the entire staff’s adoration of Jerusha, couldn’t say enough about her outstanding personality, dedication and commitment. “Putting in the efforts to do the work, to conquer the language barrier, to get through the pandemic and her own personal life… She’s just done a great job getting to that next level. Her smile and attitude makes everyone here feel the worth of what we’re doing. If I could have 400 of her I’d take them all!”.

For her part, Jerusha feels the same way about the teachers at Excel, repeating how dedicated and supportive and positive her experience has been there. She feels she’s come a long way, and promises “Once I get my (Air Force) uniform, the first place I’m coming is here, to show everyone that if you put the effort in, you can do anything.”

We asked Jerusha to share her thoughts on some of our favorite topics:

  1. What does being student of the month mean to you? It means a lot to me. This was such shocking news for me and I am so thankful to my teachers because they help me a lot to be the best I can be! At the time I was feeling like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do – I always wonder if I’m on track since I’m still figuring out the culture. This reassures me that I’m getting it, and how far I’ve come in five years.
  2. Why do you think you were nominated for student of the month? I think I got nominated for student of the month because I am doing what I am supported to do. I am respectful to my peers and school and I strive to do the best I can. Mr. Muller jumped in enthusiastically: She’s fantastic. This is my 16th year in alternative education and she came with a super positive outlook – Often we get students who are behind in credits for different reasons, and we like to help them transition to accelerated programs to help hurdle their challenges. Jerusha was different in that she came to us with a proactive attitude – right from orientation, she knew what she wanted to accomplish, which was getting to the AirForce efficiently. She’s just been fantastic – she’s part of our Student government, and she quickly earned Executive status, which means she’s part of the student body the teachers rely on to help out every day. And she’s reached our highest honor faster than any student before her – Eagle status is reserved for our students who fully embody what we try to do here at Excel and she is just a shining example – she truly leads by example.
  3. You were nominated by Ms Kelly. Explain your relationship with them? Why do you think they nominated you specifically? I got nominated by Ms. Kelly, our Director of Student Services. My relationship with her is that she is my counselor and helps me get ready for what I am planning to do after high school. She supports me in navigating my decisions and helps me all the time. Mr. Muller had asked Ms. Kelly for her answer: ”Her super positive attitude and pleasant demeanor brought Ms. Kelly to nominate her.”
  4. What is one thing you would like to share about yourself that most people don’t know about you? The most important is my heritage. People think I’m Indian or Mexican. No. First of all I’m a human being, and as far as where I’m from, I’m from Pakistan. Also, I’m a dancer. I’ve been dancing since I was 4 years old. I do Indian and Pakistani traditional dance, especially as part of charity performances. I’m also an artist. And a makeup artist. Including traditional henna tattoos. I’m also learning to play piano now. Everyone on my dad’s side are singers and dancers so I’m part of a musical family, and my mom’s side has lots of beauticians so I am influenced by both. I also love cooking traditional foods.
  5. What do you enjoy most when you are not at school? When I’m not at school I enjoy spending as much time as possible with my family and friends. Doing all the things we just talked about as far as my hobbies.
  6. In your opinion, what is the best thing about attending school at Excel South? Everything!!!! Ok, in my opinion, the best thing about school at Excel South is that they make me feel like a stronger person! When I started at Excel, my mom was going through a personal tragedy, and that was very difficult emotionally and physically – I was in school working hard, then helping my mom through this, as part of an immigrant family dealing with a new hospital system and the emotional needs of our family. The teachers supported me the whole way, letting me just be me, telling me they believed in me and it has made me a better student and person.
  7. In your opinion, what is one thing that the School District could do to improve our service to students? I have been supported by the school district in everything I have done so far while here. They have helped me to navigate things here, find my way to Excel South, and provided the support I need to be successful. If you take advantage of the help they provide, there is nothing that needs to be changed! The only thing we could really use is better food. We need a better more substantial lunch for our students!

Jerusha thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Congratulations on being our Senior of the Month and we are so excited to see what you do next, in the Air Force and beyond!