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Jesselle Joseph can be found most days in virtually every A.P. course Momence has to offer.

I’m doing what I want to do.

Whether it’s in the Humanities or STEM subjects, Jesselle is at the very top of her class. From high-ranging test scores to a perfect GPA and an almost impossibly high weighted GPA, she’s setting her sights on college. For now, the University of Wisconsin at Madison may very well be Jesselle’s next academic home. The Badgers would be lucky to have her. She’d make the place better. Other universities have piqued her interest too, Northwestern in particular. Wherever she goes, she plans on pursuing a double-major in chemistry and neuroscience. While many of us had certain goals when we were younger, this gifted scholar combines goals with two other key ingredients: ambition and work. And she hasn’t limited herself to academics alone.

Jesselle, to add to her ambitions and work, is class president, student council vice president, and she plays a key role in the yearbook club, just to name some of her extracurricular activities. She is also in the Creative Arts Club. While some of us thought that a river of sorts might divide the hard sciences from the humanities, Jesselle proves us wrong. Her life is already a cause for celebration for scientists and painters, for writers and mathematicians. There’s harmony there, and this hardworking student is proof of that.


At the end of the day, Jesselles notes, “AP calculus is my favorite class.” Sometimes, we do have to pick our favorite of the litter. But she also loves her AP chemistry class. Another goal is to become a physician’s assistant, but she hasn’t yet ruled out being a doctor herself. Dr. Jesselle: It has a certain ring to it. Whatever profession she chooses, there’s little doubt that she’ll excel and exceed its demands. But Jesselle isn’t just mentally gifted, and hasn’t eschewed athletics.


Captain of the varsity volleyball team (who are on a tremendous winning streak), she enjoys the camaraderie of being on a team and describes her work on the court as “a release.” Jesselle is, again, a combination of many good things, both mind and body, mentality and muscle. And the young in particular need room to grow and flourish. Momence and its community and diversity mean a great deal to her, and she sees Momence as a great source of support. After all, it will always be home. But Jesselle also loves traveling. While she wants to visit Europe, she recently visited the University of Madison, as well as Arizona. There, she attended a Summer Health Institute, which couldn’t be more fitting. When asked what she would do if there was no chance of failure, Jesselle is confident with her answer: “I’m doing what I want to do.” How many of us could say that and have it be the truth?


She isn’t going it all by herself either. Jesselle has a wonderful mother, a strong family, and the teachers and community of Momence. One guide, her civics teacher, Mr. Toberman is a true source for Jesselle. “I think he does a really good job at seeing all of his students and making sure that they all get a really good insight into education and all [our] different backgrounds. He’s good at showing us past cultures, and America’s culture. He’s just really good at his job.” With students like Jesselle, it must be a two-way street of reward. Teachers such as Toberman must enjoy the presence of dedication and talent, and that talent and hard work flourishes in front of good teachers like him. There are other teachers that have molded her, too.


“When I was younger, I wasn’t the best at science. I just couldn’t understand it. Or maybe I didn’t apply myself. But Ms. Perry and Mr. Sala really encouraged me to work hard and dedicate myself to getting better.” For Jesselle, though she will go on to other vistas and places, she clearly knows how much she’s profited from her time in Momence. In turn, Momence profits from young women like Jesselle. It’s still a two-way street, and she manages to navigate both sides with keen smarts and gratitude. It’s a better world—for all of us—that remarkable people like Jesselle are in it.

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