North High Youth Appreciation!

The Optimist Club of Salem met teachers and students from North Salem High School on Thursday, March 18th, to celebrate the achievements of those students. This meeting was part of the Youth Appreciation program the club runs annually. These students’ stories were inspiring.

Below are synopses of each student.

Nevaeh Jurgensmeier


The Club recognized Nevaeh Jurgensmeier for her achievements in Mathematics at North High. Nevaeh is much more than the student who received an A on the report card. She is a student who set high expectations for herself and was initially intensely frustrated with the dual challenge of new technology and academics. It’s how she handled that frustration which is most admirable.

She reached out to me, her math teacher, with self-advocacy, figured out what her weaknesses were, and worked to improve herself. In the end, She learned the curriculum. But along the way, she learned about the strength within her. She learned that when things get difficult, she can grow through them and still get to where she needs to be. Her response to a difficult time is a character train worthy of recognition.

Justice McLane

Outstanding Achievement

The Club also awarded Justice McLane a certificate for Outstanding Achievement in Academics at North Salem High School. Justice arrived at North Salem High School during his ninth grade year. His first year at, Justice only spoke when a staff member asked a question. He required prompts to start assignments, get a pencil or paper, stay on task, and follow his schedule. In class discussions, Justice did not participate and often did not realize the topic of discussion. The only question he asked with frequency is, “When does school end?” Justice did not seem comfortable in class.

Justice is now a senior who will graduate this June. The school staff has been thrilled with the amount of progress he has made over the last four years! Justice now engages with peers, asks questions, tells jokes, and can independently get into his CDL classes. Justice can recall information learned from current and past lessons. What a memory! Perhaps the most amazing change in Justice is his ability to advocate for himself in so many ways, as well as being able to thoughtfully plan for his future.

Justice is on the autism spectrum. The progress he has made in the last four years is exceptional and way beyond his teachers’ expectations. Justice also recognizes his progress and has even stated that he is proud of himself. The school is going to miss him next year, but he will fly with his independent wings. It is Justice’s time to soar!

Alexis Frank

Fine Arts

North Salem High School student Alexis Frank also was recognized by the Club for her work in Fine Arts. Alexis impresses her art teacher with her kind spirit, passion for knowledge, and advanced level of communication skills. She has a great ability to be flexible and willingness to lead or be part of a team. Alexis and her art teacher are both new to North Salem High School. Being the new kid on the block even as an adult can be emotionally challenging.

One thing the teacher knew she could count on was a “hello” and “how are you?” from Alexis every day in online learning. This seems like a simple thing to do, but really helped the teacher cope with the daily difficulties of online learning. Alexis showed her optimism with her action to speak first in class. Even though most days she would not get a reply from other students when she reached out, she kept at it. The school art teacher says she is truly proud of Alexis for showing up to class every day and showing that little extra piece of optimism that everyone needed.

Kaliyah Hughes


Kaliyah Hughes was recognized for her achievements in the Humanities. Kaliyah is a freshman at North Salem High School. For many ninth graders this year, it has been a challenge to start their high school careers without attending the actual school building and meeting their new teachers and peers in-person. Kaliyah has risen to that challenge and has managed this transition smoothly. Her attendance, focus, and participation in her classes demonstrates her determination to do the best she can to succeed in school and in her future.

Kaliyah is on the autism spectrum, but that does not interfere with her work ethic. She has already learned how to advocate for her needs. At the beginning of the school year, Kaliyah recognized that one of her classes was not challenging enough for her, and she asked for a more advanced course. Kaliyah knows what she wants and is willing to work hard to achieve her goals. As a freshman, Kaliyah’s attitude toward school and her goals is exemplary. She and the staff at school know that she will be successful with schoolwork and in her future.

Her ability to ask for assistance when she needs clarification demonstrates her focus and willingness to embrace her learning. Kaliyah’s motivation for personal success is apparent.