October Senior of the Month – Jada Collins
“It’s a courageous act to just be with whatever is happening at the moment — all of it, the difficult as well as the wonderful.”
After just one interview with Jada, the feeling you walk away with is a mixture of delight touched with awe. She is courageous, positive, and exudes a polished enthusiasm for the world she’s currently in and everything she’s looking to experience next.
The consistent theme with Jada is that she does not let a potential challenge hold her back. At every obstacle in her way, she has turned it into an opportunity. She does not just overcome, she triumphs. She came to the Academy at Palumbo High School by way of Masterman middle school, and she admits candidly that she wasn’t accepted to Masterman High School. She looks at that as a win. “I know that sounds like I’m covering myself, but I honestly wasn’t happy there. I was working so hard I didn’t have time for anything else.” Her elementary school violin lessons interfered with math class so she was constantly struggling to make up that time when she got to her 5th grade math class. She did loads of tutoring, and wasn’t seeing the results she expected. “Ever since, it’s been my motto to prove that 5th grade math teacher wrong – I’ve been in honors or AP math with perfect grades ever since,” she says with a light airy laugh.
She credits Palumbo as being the best choice possible. “ Palumbo has been a very stable environment and allowed me to explore so many things beyond what I do IN class, where I can not just survive but thrive. I’ve been able to join sports and clubs, while keeping my after-school dance commitment (Jada takes 2+ hours of dance, 6x/week!). I can choose the classes I want no matter how rigorous they are; I’ve taken every honors and AP class they offer. I like the way my classes have steadily progressed, and it feels on track with how I’ve grown as a person here, with all my friends and peers.” After a personal family challenge impacted her and her mom early in high school, where many kids might’ve taken a step back, she adamantly stuck with all of her activities, determined not to miss a thing, and remained positive and engaged.
Principal Thompson describes Jada as having a “beautiful disposition – always smiling, always pleasant, always friendly, always around – always participating and available to help. She’s very visible. Even in 9th grade when we were virtual we had just started our dance program, and I wondered how we were going to pull this off. And there at our virtual holiday performance, there’s Jada dancing ballet in her living room. It was wonderful! And since then she has been very active in the school while keeping grades up and handling rigorous course load. She’s just a wonderful all around student.
Active and visible indeed – as last year’s elected Junior Class Vice President, she was constantly involved, handling everything from selling prom tickets to collecting permission slips for class trips. She is also a Griffin ambassador who gives tours to prospective students and families. She worked at the High School Fair a few weeks ago. As a member of the National Honor Society, she’s in bi-weekly meetings and participates in fundraising. She’s on the newly relaunched cheer squad, participating in sports, pep rallies, and senior night. After school and extracurriculars, she eats dinner in the car on the way to dance – then there’s all the homework that comes with her intense coursework! This year when she didn’t win the re-election, she said that was ok – maybe a relief, after packing so much in the year before.
Oh and her favorite class this year? AP PreCalc (“5th grade math teacher, if she could only see me now”.)
We asked Jada our favorite line of questions:
- What does being named Senior of the Month mean to you?
It means that not only my mom but (the selection committee) has also recognized me. Which means I’m being seen and recognized for everything I’ve done and that I’ve been chosen from among all the other seniors accomplishing so much, across the entire District. It’s really nice and a little surprising; it’s very special and I’m very grateful for it.
- Why do you think you were nominated for Senior of the Month?
I think because of all the things I do now, but also because of the things I’ve been through in my life and how I’ve chosen to handle those harder moments. I could have given up, I could’ve chosen not to move forward with strength and positivity. I was nominated by my mom and she has seen the way I’ve pushed through – and she’s helped me push through, in a lot of ways, and made sure I didn’t fall away.
In everything I do, I work very hard. Some may think that it’s easy but it’s not. Even when I love it, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
We asked Principal Thompson to add her thoughts on why Jada made a great Senior of the Month: “Jada is very deserving of this acknowledgement, for all the reasons we’ve mentioned, and more. She’s an excellent student, yes, but it’s also very much the way we’ve seen her grow and work through some tough times. That speaks volumes about her character. Where other students might have had their spirits dampened, she kept pushing along.”
- You were nominated by your mom, Zita. Explain your relationship to her. Why do you think s/he nominated you specifically?
My mom and I are really close. It’s always been just the two of us. My father has not been a very consistent presence in my life, and that’s just been his way. So for a long time it’s been just the two of us. We are typical mom and daughter which means sometimes we have our issues but there’s always love. I never leave the house without getting a hug and an “I love you”. And I think she nominated me because she really sees me. She knows what I’ve had to go through and she knows I didn’t falter or allow anything to keep me from doing everything I wanted to do. Her support has always been full tilt.
- What is one thing you’d like to share about yourself that most people don’t know about you?
I’ve got some opinions about food. Like, I really don’t understand whipped cream. And I don’t like marshmallows. These things usually are placed with foods that they don’t go with – a weird mix of hot with cold – and they serve no purpose! If anything, they just mess up the consistency of what you’re eating – everything mixes and mushes in a weird way.
But I DO like to mix mashed potatoes and corn. Cause THAT’s great.
- What do you enjoy most when you are not at school?
Well clearly I spend a lot of time dedicated to dance. But honestly it’s not just the dancing I enjoy, it’s the people. I’ve been dancing with them since I was 3 years old. Even when I leave some days practically in tears and ready to quit, I come back the next day because I love these girls.
- In your opinion, what is the best thing about attending school at Palumbo?
I guess the opportunity to do other things outside of school. Extracurriculars and clubs – so much available. If something you want to do doesn’t exist yet, you can create that club or activity if you want. So there are a lot of new things. Cheer was something we (re)started just a few years ago! All these other things are available and that’s what I like.
- In your opinion, what is one thing that the School District could do to improve our service to students?
The District could do a better job of communicating what is going on. I know it’s no easy feat – one simple message about something simple like the impending SEPTA strike needs to be reviewed by so many people. But just stay in communication – a simple warning note, saying you know that it might be coming, and we’re handling it, give us a second and we’ll get back to you with more information – that would be helpful.
Jada just completed her applications to Marketing programs across 15 top tier colleges and universities across the country. We can’t wait to hear what happens next! Best of luck to you Jada!