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Washington Voices

New setting helped M.E.A.D. student embrace school

Thu., June 3, 2010

Jaime Nesdahl is preparing to graduate from M.E.A.D., Mead’s alternative high school.  (Jesse Tinsley)
Jaime Nesdahl is preparing to graduate from M.E.A.D., Mead’s alternative high school. (Jesse Tinsley)

Sometimes a student comes along who surprises everybody. Such is the case with Jaime Nesdahl, who surprised even herself. “It’s unbelievable to me that I’m going to graduate on time!” she said.

Nesdahl’s high school career didn’t get off to a stellar start. She said she felt lost in the shuffle during her freshman year at Mt. Spokane. “I’d come from Shaw Middle School and didn’t know anyone.” Feeling both overwhelmed and isolated, she avoided school whenever possible, which had disastrous consequences on her grade-point average.

“I just gave up on grades and socialization,” she said. Her mother told her skipping school was not an option and advised her daughter to find a school that she would commit to attending. And that’s when Nesdahl discovered M.E.A.D – Mead Education Alternative Division high school. “I found the school on a website,” she said. Following an interview, she was accepted and enrolled.

“Jaime came to us pretty depressed, and her grades were abysmal, but she was eager to learn,” teacher Brooke Matson recalled.

Nesdahl said that eagerness stemmed from the warm welcome she received at M.E.A.D. “The first day I went there was the greatest day I’d ever experienced,” she said. “When I came in, the staff knew my name. They knew who I was.”

In addition to the small-school feel, Nesdahl was encouraged by the learning environment. “They let you go at your own pace,” she said.

Once she felt accepted and understood, Nesdahl’s academic pace picked up dramatically. “I did independent learning between my sophomore and junior year and got caught up on everything.”

Matson has been amazed by the progress of this once-reluctant student. “Her critical-thinking skills have really developed this year,” she said. “She’s worked hard to be able to graduate on time with her class.”

Not only has Nesdahl flourished academically, she’s also blossomed socially. “She came to us not very connected,” Matson said. “Now, she’s connected to other students at school.”

No one is more amazed by this turn of events than Nesdahl, who said, “I actually like going to school every day.”

She’s reached out into the community, as well. Nesdahl served on Community Minded Enterprises’ Youth Sustainability Council.

“I worked for them last summer as an event coordinator,” she said. “I organized a chalk art event at the Clocktower to let people know about the Youth Sustainability Council.”

Those organizational and leadership skills come naturally to her, and were put to use as Matson’s teacher’s assistant this past semester. Said Matson, “She’s always eager to help others and didn’t have to be told what to do. She just did it.”

As Nesdahl eyes her future she has some ambitious goals. She’d like to be an entertainment lawyer or an accountant. “I love arguing with people and I love money,” she said, laughing.

When she looks back at her high school career from its shaky start to its triumphant finish, she sees cause for hope. “My generation can change the world.”

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