Anyone who thinks of today’s high school students as unmotivated or apathetic has not met Nigel Jacobs. The senior was president of his the junior class, plays violin in the orchestra, is a member of the chorus, competes on the bowling team and in crew for West Side Rowing Club, and has performed in several Park Players productions. He has served on the School’s Judicial Board.
Outside of school, Nigel is a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Federation of Just Communities of Western New York. He serves in the Community Builders program and Jack and Jill of America’s Buffalo Chapter, Teen Executives. He participated in Jack and Jill’s Beautillion program, a six-month leadership development curriculum.
Nigel’s potential as a student and community leader was evident when he first entered Park as a ninth grader. Buffalo’s Education Collaborative (EdCo) each year awards full-tuition scholarships to “talented, dedicated students of color who want to attend one of 15 participating EdCo high schools,” according to the John R. Oishei Foundation, which funds the scholarships. He won the Oishei Scholarship his freshman year and has not looked back.
“Park is smaller than most schools, and I really like having small classes,” Nigel said. “It’s a friendly community, and because it’s smaller people know each other.”
Nigel mentioned a few Park teachers who have been particularly meaningful to him.
“My adviser, Mrs. (Marnie) Cerrato, has helped me out a lot and encouraged me to do things I might not try. Mr. (Matt) Johnson, my history teacher, was very kind to me when I came here. I have a huge interest in history, so we have that connection.
“My English class with Mrs. (Kerry) Reynolds was another one that stands out. Because she made us do journals and reflect on ourselves it helped me to really figure out what I think about things.”
Nigel’s involvement in community activities plays a large role in his life.
“Through NFJC, I participate in the Community Builders Program where I have had the benefit of volunteering in such efforts as anti-bullying conferences, program and law enforcement retreats, and Dash for Diversity.”
For two summers, Nigel worked as a teaching assistant for Buffalo Prep’s summer program for middle school, was a lifeguard for the Neumann Catholic swim league, and served an assistant counselor for Park’s Summer Scholars program.
“I have also traveled the world,” he adds. He has visited Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Rome, Florence, and Venice, among other cities, on a People to People Ambassador program. Through Park’s Immersion program, he has been to Cuzco, Peru, and to northern China.
Nigel had a particularly memorable academic experience in the summer of 2014, when he attended Yale University’s Young Global Scholars Program on Politics, Law, and Economics. “It was an amazing program,” he said. “I got to meet people from around the world, people from other states and from other countries who talked about their cultures. That was a really memorable experience.
“I studied politics, law, and economics in the United States ... delving deeper into those things, learning how our country was founded. I got to understand history a little bit better by learning how people were thinking during that time period about what was going on.”
The tug of history is strong for Nigel. He is particularly drawn to the story of the United States from the American Revolution through the Civil War.
“There were a lot of problems and it was hard to unite the country,” he said about the Civil War. “And the American Revolution… people said, ‘We are the United States of America, we are all together,’ but that’s not actually how it happened. It took a long time to get everybody together.”
As he looks ahead to college, Nigel thinks he might major in history, media studies, international relations, computer science, or engineering.
“I participated in MITE, an engineering program at Tuskegee University, in the summer of 2015 that really impressed me,” he said. “I am not sure what I want to do as a future career,” he said. “But I do know that whatever I do, I want to make an impact on how we live together as world citizens.”