Neighbors: Get to know the Northside valedictorians

Jamin Eisenberg (left) and Miguel Jimenez Rodriguez (right) are Patrick Henry High School and North High School’s 2019 valedictorians. Photo by David Pierini

Jamin Eisenberg (left) and Miguel Jimenez Rodriguez (right) are Patrick Henry High School and North High School’s 2019 valedictorians. Photo by David Pierini

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North High School's valedictorian, Miguel Rodriguez Jimenez, will be graduating with a 3.8 GPA and 26 college credits. He will be heading to St. Thomas University to major in business management and retail. He is a first generation college student. He is a self-described quiet, shy and outgoing person. He has taken classes at both North High and MCTC as a PSEO student since his junior year, and he also manages to work at Wallgreens to earn money for his family. “Never take your downfalls as failures; take them as examples. In the end, some of the downfalls could take you to an open path,” he said.

By Zach Yeager, Alanna Smith, Jenelle Robinson North High

What are your plans for after high school? I’m planning on going to a two year college at St. Thomas downtown. Once I graduate from there, I’ll go to a four year. 

How does it feel to be awarded valedictorian? It’s a huge honor, having that kind of opportunity given. It’s a huge representation as well; you have a lot of students viewing you. They see you as a role model, and as an example. It’s a huge privilege to have the title as a valedictorian.

Who has been the most influential person in your life? I’ll say my sister, Isabel. I see her as a hardworking woman and how she has given the opportunities on us on achieving in our academics. Right now I see her struggling; she wants to go back to school. I don’t want to disappoint her.

Where do you want to go to college? I’m going to St. Thomas. It wasn’t my first or my third choice. It was actually the U of M. Unfortunately I was rejected. My full confirmation is at St. Thomas. It was very challenging at first. I take it like it’s all my fault, like it’s all on me, like I didn’t take the opportunities, like checking out my application on what I’m missing to make the full confirmation like I did at St. Thomas.

You’re a PSEO student. How do you balance taking college classes and trying to manage your classes here? I started taking college classes at MCTC my junior year, spring semester. It was very challenging. During my first semester I was just first time, seeing how I would end up, but at least trying to get my general classes out of there. At the end, I’m taking classes I’ll need for my major. 

What steps have you taken to become the valedictorian? I mostly focus[ed] on grades as that’s number one in high school to get you at that level. Honestly, being valedictorian wasn’t my goal at first. 

What tips would you give other students to help them with school? Mostly, I say, always have communication with your teachers. Communication is the most important. In college, your teachers are not going to hold your hands—I’ve been there. Planning. Have a planner. 

What is it like for a high school student who spends little to no time on your actual high school campus? It’s kind of fun, having college courses and getting to choose what classes you want to do. 

What is your life like outside of North? Mostly it’s just school and work. I take full dedication at school, getting the grades that I need. For work, I help out my family. I am in charge of food, and I pay at least one bill. I work as a CSA at Walgreens. I’ve been there two years. I’m getting a promotion as a manager. 

How would you describe yourself? Quiet, shy but outgoing, and courageous. I wish I was more open. 

What are life challenges that you feel like have hurt your motivation for school? With schoolwork and homework and essays, after I started working, I kind of felt this huge procrastination. Not wanting to do any school work. At the end, I looked at myself and kind of said: my parents went here to help their family back in Mexico. I’m not taking the advantage and opportunity that’s given here. It really hurts. I managed to get up.

How do you feel like you developed as a person from being a student at North High School? I feel like a big family man. I’ve been here for four years, and it feels like family now. 

What are three things that you feel like have contributed to a successful high school experience and education? Not giving up, pursuing your dream, and not to be a quitter. What I heard from my mentors, they said: if you start on something, finish it 100%. Don’t give up at 50%. 

What do you do to psyche yourself up to do things that are outside your comfort zone, like giving the graduation speech as the valedictorian? Find people who have had the opportunity. One of my friends from two years ago was the valedictorian, Za Vang. I’ll seek guidance and help from him and see how he managed to talk to people.

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Jamin Eisenberg is Patrick Henry High School’s 2019 valedictorian.  The 17-year old is a full-time PSEO student with a 3.98 GPA who will be attending Northeastern University in Boston next year. Eisenberg is an aspiring computer scientist who is co-captain of Herobotics, the PHHS award-winning robotics team.  By Datelle Straub, Danae Lawson Patrick Henry High


What does it take to be a valedictorian? It takes a lot of internal motivation. A lot of people are not motivated in the same way by their parents and their friends to do well. School is kind of my thing. It’s a lot of what I do. That focus, and wanting myself to do well has gotten me pretty far.

What activities are you involved with? I am the  co-captain of Herobotics. I do Boy Scouts. I got Eagle Scout earlier this year.

How do you find time to study? It helps doing PSEO, because you’re in class a lot less. Some of that time I do extracurricular activities and sometimes I study. It helps to not be in class all day.

How did your parents react to learning you are valedictorian? I just live with my mom and sister. My mom was excited. She had known I was number two for 3.75 years. 

Was it a competitive edge to keep your grades up or was it a personal reason? It was more about getting into college, and a college I knew I would want to go to.

What’s your plan after high school? I’m going to Northeastern which is in Boston. I will be majoring in computer science and computer engineering. Northeastern has a co-op program: you do two extended, paid internships at companies that really want you for your skills and they have a lot of focus on experiential learning. They also have a five year Bachelors-Master's program. I can graduate at 22 with my Master's hopefully.

Why computer science? It started freshman year. It has a lot to do with robotics. I took Intro to Java, first semester. That’s a programming language. I took a secondary course too. Originally I wanted to focus on electrical engineering, but I got more into computer science this year.

Who do you look up to? My Scoutmaster Ted McLoughlin. I look up to Ted because he goes with the flow, and he's really committed to us, the Scouts; Scouts are his entire life. He is just a really good person. I also look up to Mr. Braaten; he’s one of the math teachers here. He’s really smart, and I’ve heard from other teachers that he’s very socially there; a lot of math people aren’t. He’s an outstanding teacher. For most of high school I wanted to be a math teacher, in part because of him.

What would you say to freshman who want to be in the position you are now? You just have to put the effort in. If you really focus on school primarily, you are very likely to be in the top couple of people.

What are your passions? I’m sort of an electronics hobbyist. At my house, I have bought and received as gifts and accumulated lots of wiring and microcontrollers to make little projects.

What was your hardest class? I took a secondary computer science class: introduction to program development, algorithms, and data structures. It was tougher than I expected. I did not do very well on the first midterm, which I’m not used to. Going in, I didn’t even study. I expected it to be easy because the course content had been easy. I learned to take advantage of the possibilities.

What do people not know about you? I’m kind of obsessed with the 80’s. I only listen to 80’s music. My mom grew up in the 80’s, so that’s probably where some of that comes from. I wear tie dye every day. That’s also pretty weird. I also read Ready Player One, which is one of my favorite books, and it has a bunch of 80’s references. The tie dye? I don’t know. I was born of a sperm donation. There’s a bunch of papers that describe the donor; one of his passions was abstract art. It might even be somewhat of a genetic thing.

Long term life dream? I want to become a professor in something—math, computer science. My interests change kind of quickly. They’ve always been in the STEM field. 

Do you see yourself living in North Minneapolis when you’re older? I live Northeast now. I see myself moving back to Minneapolis as an adult. 

Why did you choose Henry High? Robotics. PLTW, the engineering program, was a big draw too. It has tools and materials for me to do the things I like to do. There’s only so much of a workshop I can build up in my basement on my desk. I’ve also made friends in robotics that I’d like to keep.

Kenzie O'Keefe