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iSchool High At University Park (Class of 2016)

iSchool High At University Park alumna Naomi Michaelson, now a senior at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB), will graduate from college this May thanks to hard work, persistence and her ResponsiveEd College, Career and Military Readiness Coordinator. Naomi hopes to be the same encouragement to her future students as her iSchool High teachers were to her.

After being homeschooled in her early years, Michaelson’s parents were looking for an alternative to the traditional school districts so that she would have a smoother transition into public education. “We went for an open house night and immediately the school sounded like a perfect fit,” she says. “It was self-paced and required a great deal of self-discipline, but I was used to that with homeschooling.” Naomi knew she wanted to pursue higher education and appreciated that the iSchool model is based on college preparation and dual credit courses. 

The college application process can be stressful, but Michaelson has a strategy. She did her research and chose her top six schools based on the scholarships that were available. Naomi comes from a large family and knew that she would be footing the bill, so she waded through the paperwork and applied to every resource of financial assistance she could find. She decided on Houston Baptist University (HBU) and started making plans for the move, but after a campus visit to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) that she had previously scheduled, she felt at home on the faith-centered campus and welcoming community. The only thing standing in her way was the intimidating price tag of tuition.

Discouraged, Naomi kept working at her senior year with plans to go to her initial pick, HBU. Kevin Sevin, who now serves as the ResponsiveEd College, Career and Military Readiness Coordinator, was the iSchool counselor at the time and made it a point to check in on the seniors headed off to college. After hearing that Naomi wasn’t pursuing her top pick due to finances, he began helping her in the search for scholarships and encouraged her to retake the SAT for a higher score which could improve the opportunity for financial assistance.

“About a week before graduation our final transcripts were finished processing and our class rankings were updated. I had been aware that I was in the top 10%, but unaware of just how close I had been to the top,” says Naomi. “Mr. Sevin and Mrs. Bare, our principal, pulled me from class to tell me the exciting news. They said that I was now the class salutatorian.” This was a big deal and not only because she was being recognized for her hard work and academic success, but because UMHB offers a $60,000 scholarship to valedictorians and salutatorians. 

“I went back to class with a big smile on my face and went to work writing a salutatorian speech,” she says. Naomi chose to keep her distinction a secret and surprised her parents at graduation with the news of her class standing and plans to head off to UMHB, her first pick. Naomi understands that the path to success isn’t easy and is motivated by Zig Ziglar’s words, “There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.” She says that her teachers kept high expectations and encouraged students to remember to work hard to reach their future goals. Naomi says that even when she had doubts, her homeroom teacher Mr. Bass believed in her academic abilities and held her accountable for continuing her college applications. She credits Mr. Sevin with encouraging students to attend college recruitment events, prepare for their SAT/ACT and apply to college.

“There are so many other stories I could share about the amazing teachers I had iSchool,” says Naomi. “Each of my teachers cared about me, my individual needs and my success both during high school and beyond.” She says that the conversations shared with Mr. Pausky help reassure her of her decision and not be nervous about the future. Many educators acknowledge that they wouldn’t have pursued the profession if it weren’t for the positive influences of their own past teachers. It doesn’t hurt that both of Naomi’s parents are also teachers. She says that she continues to love school and enjoys working with children, which is why she chose her major. “I think the elementary years are so important developmentally and I want to have a positive influence on these kids’ lives,” she says.  “ I especially love reading and writing and I think it’s so important for life so I would love to teach those.”

Naomi joins her peers for a campus event.

Naomi has worked hard in her undergrad years, including serving as president of Circle K, a student organization that focuses on service, leadership and fellowship on campus, in the community and worldwide. She is also been on the Welcome Week team to introduce incoming students to the longstanding traditions at UMHB. Naomi gets involved in as much of the student life as possible, including performing in skits, the Easter pageant, Missions Emphasis Week, while also finding time to volunteer in her church’s childcare. Paying for her college tuition means that it’s important she has time to earn money too. Naomi is a nanny during the week and helps tutor the children she watches.

“College has made a huge impact on my life. I have met so many new people and learned more about how to view the world from other people’s perspectives,” she says. “I have been stretched and grown in so many areas. I have learned how to live independently from my parents and to take care of my needs. I have learned a lot about self-control and self-discipline. I have had to get out of my comfort zone and try new things. I have met lifelong friends and have had experiences that will impact me for a lifetime.”

If you’re considering pursuing education after high school Naomi says “college will change your life. You will learn so much about yourself and the world around you. You will have so many new experiences. You will meet so many new people.” She goes on to say. “You will get to try new things and be shaped by your experiences. You will be well equipped to thrive in your career field. It can be hard, but it’s so so worth it.”

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