Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Where Are They Now?

Posted 03/16/2018 by Kathryn Schroeck

graphic by Andrew Villescas

TJ Spartans move on to new chapters and continue to impress.

Thomas Jefferson High School works to prepare students for their futures every year. As the success rate of former Spartans increases, the number of adventures and stories from alumni increases as well. Here are some of their stories.

2015 graduate Jessica Jackson spent four years on the TJ varsity volleyball team before receiving a full ride scholarship to Colorado State University, where she now continues her career in the sport. Since she has been on the team, CSU has won two conference championships and made three tournament appearances. Jackson hopes to have more successes in her next two years on the team, while valuing the impacts she can make. “Having the ability to step back and make my teammates better players in practices, so they can execute in games is something that I do take pride in because it’s necessary for any team’s success,” she explained. Jackson also participates in the Rambition leadership team and the John Moseley leadership team. These teams work to connect and empower female student athletes and bring athletes of color together. Jackson is studying Communication Studies with a minor in Sports Management, and hopes to go into a career in the sports marketing field.

Former Spartan Ben Salinger had the opportunity to travel following his graduation in 2016. Salinger did not go straight to college; instead, he took a gap year and traveled around the world to various places including Thailand and Ghana, visiting each location for three months. Following Salinger’s gap year, he relocated to Portland, Oregon, where he is studying Biology at Lewis and Clark College. “My gap year reaffirmed that I wanted to be a doctor, not to mention I made some pretty good friends,” he stated. Salinger hopes to become an anesthesiologist, inspired by Scott Thomas’ AP Biology course here at TJ.

Elsa Yehdego also graduated from TJ in 2016 and now attends the University of Northern Colorado on a full ride scholarship. She participates in many clubs and activities such as Black Student United, African Student United (ASU), where she is the president of the club, and Black Women of Today (BWOT), where she is the activities coordinator. ASU’s mission is to bring together and provide support for African students on campus, while attending social events and completing community service projects. BWOT is a safe space for black women on campus that encourages students to embrace their backgrounds. Yehdego works at the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center (MGCC) as an Activity Coordinator and Organization Leader. “I show first year students a safe space on campus and what MGCC has to offer,” she explained. Yehdego also had the opportunity to participate in the Miss Ethiopia USA pageant last year, where she earned the title of Miss Ethiopia USA Colorado. During her time at TJ, Yehdego was the vice president of Interact Club; there, she collected over 300 items in school supplies that she brought back to kids in Axum, Ethiopia. “I hope to complete a similar project in the future by collecting medical supplies that are taken for granted in the US in order to help less fortunate individuals in my country,” Yehdego expressed. She plans to earn a degree in Nursing, and then go on to work as a nurse in the United States to gain experience before moving back to Ethiopia.

Alumna Caroline Cech graduated from TJ in 2017 and went on to attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa, through the Western Undergraduate Exchange. She applied with an intended major in Business, but later changed her focus to Environmental Sciences after taking AP Environmental at TJ. Cech hopes to work in renewable and sustainable energy fields after receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Global Environmental Science. “I want to help the world move away from fossil fuels to pave the way for a greener future. I want to not only improve the current renewable energy sources we have today, but also come up with new ideas to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” she described. Moving three thousand miles away has not only impacted Cech’s education, but it has also given her a new outlook on Hawaiian culture. “The people here have such a deep love for the land and for their culture. I’m so blessed to be able to study in a place so diverse and different from anything I’ve experienced before,” Cech explained.

The class of 2017 Valedictorian Colton Hook also had the opportunity to go out of state for college, attending California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly). Hook is studying Aerospace Engineering and hopes to build or work on rockets in the future, and go to space if the opportunity presents itself. Cal Poly is a competitive school that is known for its Engineering, Business, and Architecture programs. While at TJ, Hook had the opportunity to not only gain college credits from AP courses and concurrent enrollment through CCT, but also took multiple math classes at Metropolitan State University. These opportunities provided Hook with college credit that is helping him now, and also helped him get into the school that was right for him. Hook also participated in robotics for all four years at TJ, attending a global competition in Texas and serving as a captain for numerous competitions. Going out of state has allowed Hook to become more independent and self reliant. “It has also been great to branch out and experience a new place and meet new people,” Hook described.  

2017 graduate and former Editor-in-Chief of the TJ Journal, Jordan Prochnow, took her writing skills to the University of Iowa, where she is double-majoring in Creative Writing and Criminology. Her work can be found in the Daily Iowan (DI) and she hopes to expand to even larger publication platforms in the future. The DI is the largest student run paper in the country, and Prochnow has written many health research and news articles for the paper already. “My time at TJ prepared me for my time at Iowa in so many ways,” said Prochnow, “writing for the TJ Journal gave me the skills and hard work needed to write for the DI.” Her position with the paper has already allowed Prochnow to have many new experiences, such as visiting a prison to interview inmates and talk to doctors researching cures for various types of cancer. Reporting for the online newspaper at TJ allowed Prochnow to not only become a reporter for her college paper, but she has also taken on the roll of the Newsletter and Publications Chair for her sorority as a freshman. She hopes to publish a novel and a memoir in the future, and continue her career in journalism.

The successes and stories of TJ alumni does not end there. Spartans continue to move on to further education and careers each year, and hopes are high that this streak will continue.