Every Student Succeeding: Jessica Nord

Jessica Nord and her twin brother were born premature at just 30 weeks, and Jessica was diagnosed with periventricular leukomalacia, a brain injury that affects development. She spent years in and out of hospitals, missing copious amounts of school. She endured 13 surgeries and came out of it more determined than ever to help others. When she started in the choir, it was an equalizer. It was something that she could do and a place where she was free. She could sing if she was using a walker or using a cane or in a wheelchair. Through it all, Jessica stayed committed to school at Six Rivers Charter High. She made the 4.0 honor roll and is a dedicated to her choir. When she performs, what makes her stand out is her beautiful voice.


August 1, 2017

Singing through the surgeries

Jessica Nord’s favorite time of day is choir class at Six Rivers Charter High in Arcata, where she can show off her love of singing.

“I just have always really loved singing,” Jessica said. “It’s really fun. I always like being around everybody because they have the same interests as I do.”

Singing serves as Jessica’s escape, her sense of normalcy. In part, because there was nothing normal about Jessica’s childhood. She and her twin brother were born premature at just 30 weeks. Jessica was diagnosed with periventricular leukomalacia, a brain injury that affects development.

“They said it’s like if you took a pencil and put pen points all over the brain, little pen points,” Jessica’s mother Karen Silva said. “They had no idea if she was ever going to talk. They had no idea if she would walk or be able to crawl. They had no idea what the impact was going to be on her life.”

Jessica spent years in and out of hospitals, missing copious amounts of school.

“It’s really frustrating,” Jessica said. “I got kind of depressed for awhile because of it. I would go to doctor’s visits. I would come back from a surgeon and they’d say, ‘Oh, you’re doing great.’ And then I’d come back a few weeks later and they’d say, ‘I think you need another surgery.’”

But no surgery was more daunting than in Jessica’s eighth grade year, when doctors determined she needed a spinal fusion.

“They put two rods in, about 80 screws,” Silva said. “She’s fused from between her shoulder blades all the way down to nearly her tailbone. And it was about a 10 to 12-hour surgery. We just didn’t think we were going to make it through that. She’s a fighter. She’s been a fighter since birth. She’s always a fighter. She did everything that was ever asked by a therapist or a doctor or anything she’d work extra hard to get back to what she needed to be doing.”

Through it all, Jessica stayed committed to school at Six Rivers Charter High. She never fell behind in her classes. In fact, she made the 4.0 honor roll.

“She’s not one to give up easy,” Six Rivers Charter High Principal Ron Perry said. “She’s the one who sticks around the longest to get the work done. She’s the one who is making plans and doing her work while she’s in the hospital so she can stay on track with her peers.”

Perry is not alone in that sentiment. Jessica has captured the hearts of many educators at Six Rivers Charter High, including resource specialist teacher Tara Millsap.

“From the day I met Jessica and realizing how hard she was willing to work to get what she wanted and what she needed for her education really taught me how to be a better teacher,” Millsap said. “Every day when I get to see Jessica, it’s definitely the favorite part of my day.”

Jessica hopes to one day become a physical therapist or a nurse. She says she wants to help people in the same way others helped her. It’s that type of outlook that makes her so special.

“She makes me see the world differently because of the way her attitude is about everything.” Silva said. “I want to be as strong as she is. Who wouldn’t want to be that strong? She’s an amazing child. And she’s a gift. Every day with her is a gift.”

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