St. James Chapter of the National Honor Society inducts 2021 class

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

On Sunday afternoon inside the Armstrong Auditorium, a new batch of 13 St. James High School students were inducted into the St. James Chapter of the National Honor Society.

National Honor Society President Mya Hanson gave opening remarks.

Hanson highlighted the National Honor Society's community work, including volunteering at food and blood drives, the recent FFA banquet, becoming penpals with members at Brandt Ridge, and putting up posters during Black History Month.

"These students, along with many others, have done an outstanding job of representing St. James Public Schools and the community as they are expected to through the standards of National Honor Society," said Hanson.

Northside gym teacher and varsity softball coach Sam Baumgartner introduced the first inductee, Addie Bowers.

Baumgartner spoke of Bowers' prowess and leadership on the softball diamond—named a team captain as a freshman in 2020—and basketball court, and volunteer work at youth sporting events, teaching younger players the basics of athletics. 

"The thing I appreciate the most about Addie is her willingness to give back to the areas that have influenced her the most in her life," said Baumgartner. "At the heart of her character, she is dedicated to whatever she is doing, she has the passion to give her best effort, she shows resilience in the face of adversity, and she does the little things that almost nobody notices that are vital for long-term success."

Health teacher Steve Chapin introduced the next four inductees.

Chapin first introduced Vanessa Chavez.

"In her own quiet way, she is one of the most conscientious students I have had the pleasure to work," said Chapin. "Vanessa is very focused on showcasing her skills and does what she can to bring them to others."

Chapin highlighted Chavez's tenth-grade health project, done on leukemia, as an example of her hard work in the classroom, while also highlighting Chavez being a role model for her younger sister.

Phoebe Wiken-Drescher was the next inductee to be introduced by Chapin.

Chapin noted Wiken-Drescher's work on her health project, done on alcoholism, and work done in eighth-grade health, as well as her penchant for '80s rock. 

"Phoebe has fought through some challenges to get to where she is today, and she should be very proud of this accomplishment," said Chapin.

Lunden Swanson was the third inductee presented by Chapin, who touched upon her leadership in organizing homecoming shirts for her class, volunteering at church, as well as in athletics and music. 

"Lunden seems to shine brighter each and every day."

The final inductee nominated by Chapin was Mika Wessels, who noted her confidence in the classroom.

"Mika is a helper and a wonderful role model for young people in our community," said Chapin. "Mika's always willing to be involved.

Wessels is involved in a variety of community activities, including working at SuperFair, teaching tennis, delivering salt, reading to young students at Northside, and helping out with community events.

Science teacher Scott Allen spoke upon Gavin Firchau and his merits for the National Honor Society.

Allen first highlighted Firchau's instincts on the football field and the track.

"He has the drive to do the best that he possibly can," said Allen. "I see a student that works hard, really cares about what he does, and knows where he's going."

Special education and science teacher Jodi Geistfeld spoke about how Alexis Herrera resembles each out the four main pillars of the National Honor Society, service, leadership, character, and scholarship.

Herrera is a member of the student council, and volunteered at the St. James coat drive, and also played a large part in this year's homecoming festivities. 

"I cannot say enough about what a wonderful person Alexis is," said Geistfeld. "If you polled her class, I would say that everyone would state that she is one of the nicest people you would ever meet. Her character is genuine." 

Math teacher Tom Cooper inducted Mariah Mireles into the National Honor Society, noting that she brings diversity to the National Honor Society.

"More importantly, there's going to be one day soon, there's going to be a young girl, a girl of color, who says 'I want to be like her. I want to be like Mariah Mireles. I want to be in the NHS.' And that's a good thing, that's going to be her legacy to this school," said Cooper.

Cooper also noted that Mireles is going to be a first-generation college student, and has the hopes of being a mathematician. 

Cooper Olson was introduced by Ag teacher and FFA advisor Becky Cronk.

Cronk highlighted Olson's work as the chapter sentinel as a leader and role model for younger members of the FFA. Olson has volunteered for multiple community service projects, including the corn drive, food drive, and the ditch cleanup. 

"He leads by example to show the younger members of our organization how to be successful," said Cronk. "He doesn't settle for anything but his best."

Olson is also active in football, basketball, and baseball.

Eva Romsdahl was inducted into the National Honor Society by Les Zellmann.

Throughout the St. James area, Romsdahl is involved in tennis, softball, choir, church, and youth groups.

Zellmann polled Romsdahl's teachers who said that Romsdahl was "Highly motivated to excel. She does not complain. She takes advice. She illustrates the personal values of hard work and has the desires to achieve."

Greg Burman spoke about Taylor Sodeman's accomplishments, filling in for Steve Witcraft.

Sodeman is active in youth sports, volunteering for younger players. Witcraft noted that Sodeman's positions in athletics, point guard, and catcher, require natural leadership abilities.

"All of these positions require her to act as a coach on the field or court," said Witcraft. "This past year, she was our point guard and she embraced the role of recognizing the defensive approach of the opponent, then she set the offensive play accordingly." 

Math teacher and football coach Gary Blom introduced Alex Stresemann and also presented Stresemann with a challenge to keep growing as a leader in athletics and academics.

"One of the things about Alex academically is that he's thorough, conscientious, asks questions, and gets answers."

Stresemann participates in baseball, basketball, and football, playing critical roles for the Saints in each sport. 

Football coach Jon Wilson introduced the final inductee, Jack Westman.

"I think his leadership role is really starting to show on the football field," said Wilson. "Last summer. we did get a chance to have a football camp, and obviously, captains have their role to be a part of that, and Jack was always there to help, volunteer, and set up out of the blue. I never asked him. He's just a person I can always count on."

Westman is a part of the St. James football, basketball, and baseball programs, as well as the FFA, where he is the treasurer, contributing for the corn drive, and handing out meals.

Middle School/High School Principal Karla Beck provided closing comments, thanking parents and guardians for getting the students involved in a variety of athletics, arts, and within the community.

"These are the kinds of activities that develop great leaders and great kids," said Beck.

Beck then issued a challenge for all students in the National Honor Society.

"It is my belief that our society is in great need right now of two things from our young people as we come out of this pandemic: being problem solvers, and being active participants in learning and everything you do."