A family of student leaders

Harrison Preparatory School helps military family excel

By Marguerite Cleveland on December 28, 2017

Jennifer, age 17; Jessica, age 16; and Jason Niemi, age 13, all attend Harrison Preparatory School in Lakewood. The three find that Harrison Prep is extremely dedicated to their students. The principal and teachers exhibit a sincere devotion toward not only educating their students, but also helping them become the best that they can be. The children's parents are Col. Jeffrey and Sophie Niemi. He serves as the chief of staff for the 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.

Harrison Preparatory School is an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. IB allows students to stretch themselves by taking college-level studies and incorporating global perspectives and interdisciplinary studies to shape their students to be inquirers, risk-takers, communicators, open-minded, caring, principled, knowledgeable, and balanced individuals. "The IB program is challenging, as classes are rigorous and modeled after college workloads. However, the IB program is rewarding as it thoroughly prepares us for college and exposes us to the reality of what's to come," said Jennifer.

Jennifer is a senior at Harrison Prep, serves as the Associated Student Body (ASB) president and was recently accepted to Harvard University. Jennifer attributes her work ethic as the most significant factor in her acceptance to an Ivy League college. "In my opinion, it's my work ethic. I've worked hard to achieve my life goals and have been heavily involved in both my school and community," she said. Serving as the ASB president has been rewarding. "My proudest accomplishment as ASB president is using my platform to support my classmates in any way possible and addressing their needs and concerns. I've learned that it's our little acts of kindness that go a long way," she added.

Like many military children, Jennifer and her siblings face challenges related to their father's military service. "The biggest challenge that my brother, sister, and I have faced is watching our dad deploy to Iraq. Never knowing what will happen to him tomorrow and when we would hear from him only made us more anxious and worried and we would always pray for his safe return back home. My dad has been stationed overseas for one to two years at a time with additional follow-up moves away from the family, making it hard on my siblings and me. Additionally, all of the training exercises and deployments have stretched our family's ability to stay together, remain close and grow. Another challenge that we have had to face is having to move and transition into new schools and environments. However, all of these hardships have only made my family stronger," said Jennifer.

Although there have been challenges, Jennifer has a positive outlook on military service and also sees the benefits. "Being a military child is actually a blessing in disguise as each new duty station is an opportunity to learn new cultures and progress myself as an individual to see the world through different lenses," she said.

Jessica is a sophomore at Harrison Prep where she serves at the Key Club president. "Key Club is an international service organization that works to improve the quality of our communities and to instill leadership qualities into others. My biggest accomplishment as Key Club president is being a part of the initiative that created more service projects that not only bettered our community, but also helped to ingrain a love for serving others in the hearts of my classmates, she said.

Jason is in the 8th grade at Harrison Prep and he is active in school leadership. "My leadership role at Harrison Prep involves creating a warm and positive atmosphere to bring my classmates together to help each other, to do the right things, and to make a difference in the school," he said.

Mom Sophie is proud of Jennifer. "I am very proud of my daughter. I believe that hard work, determination and perseverance make dreams become a reality," she said.  When asked her secret for raising such high achievers, she replied, "I've raised my children to reach their maximum potentials. I always encourage and support my children in all of their endeavors. I always tell my children that you can do it and that you can make it happen if you try hard."