Gateway: Living

2016 Student of Distinction: Praise Jorgenson

Praise Jorgenson has overcome a difficult childhood to begin a successful path that would eventually lead to a college education. Despite a rocky academic start when she was younger, she has worked hard in high school to graduate on time, and is making plans for a career in nursing.

Jorgenson was born in Liberia and her single father placed her in an orphanage when she was 3 years old, as the country was being torn by civil war. She still recalls the loneliness away from her family, and the fear that rebel soldiers would raid the orphanage and open fire at night.

When she was 7, her father relinquished his parental right and she was adopted by an American family, leaving behind everything she’d known.

“The day I got adopted would change the course of my life forever,” Jorgenson wrote in an essay. “The day I left Liberia was bittersweet. Although the country was very corrupt, it was still the only home I had ever known and to me, it was beautiful.”

Due to language barriers, she started elementary school with immediate struggles, which continued through the beginning of high school. Since moving to Henderson Bay High School, Jorgenson found the support she needed academically, and has maintained a good GPA despite struggling with dyslexia.

Originally, she didn’t want to attend Henderson Bay because she loved a big-school atmosphere.

“I was heartbroken to leave Gig Harbor High School but being at Henderson Bay really helped me because I struggled academically. Teachers here have gone above and beyond to help me succeed,” she said.

She considers her Student of the Month award her highest achievement of high school.

“Having people like teachers recognize my efforts was very meaningful to me,” she said.

Jorgenson has been involved with various sports and activities, including cheerleading and volunteering.

“I love trying new things,” she said.

One of her community service highlights is her mentorship of middle school girls through her church. As the leader of the group of about 20 girls, Jorgenson spends most of her spare time with them.

“I spend a lot of times with the girls because when I was in middle school, I had a difficult time,” she said. “I make myself as accessible to them as I can throughout the week.”

Jorgenson plans to start attending Tacoma Community College in the summer and transfer to University of Washington after a year to pursue a degree in nursing.

Category: Overcoming adversity

Education: Senior, Henderson Bay High School

GPA: 3.3

Parents: Susan and Eric Jorgenson

Activities/Achievements: Cheerleading, Harbor Dance, mission trips to Chicago, volunteer for homeless shelter, Miracle Ranch leader-in-training, Fox Island Alliance middle school leader, track and field, Student of the Month

Favorite teacher: “Mr. Williams and Mr. Peter because they challenge me to be the best I can.”

Best thing about high school: “Henderson Bay is small and smaller classes help you one-on-one with your learning.”