MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Janneke Gielstra, 17
It’s been a busy four years for Janneke Gielstra, Lake Worth High School’s valedictorian. She maintained a straight-A average, kept the number one class ranking all four years, and still managed to excel in theater, art, band and student government.
One of her artistic creations hung at the Norton Museum of Art for a while and she made all the costumes for the last two high school theatrical productions (she served as stage manager for three years, too). She played clarinet and oboe in band and, this year, she was parliamentarian for student government (she was secretary last year and class vice president the year before). The student government experience helped her determine she definitely does not want to pursue a political career, she said.
Gielstra, who lives in suburban West Palm Beach, wants to become a pediatric oncology nurse and is already a CNA (certified nursing assistant), something she achieved last year as part of her school’s medical program.
In September, she’ll head Kentucky State University, where she was awarded a full four-year scholarship that even includes a book stipend.
Born in St. Mary’s, Ga., near the Florida-Georgia border, Gielstra moved to West Palm Beach when she was a few weeks old. Her parents are Simon and Kelly Gielstra.
Watching a nurse tend to her friend Damien, who had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, helped her decide on a medical career, she said.
“I want to try to help try to make a difference for them (kids like her friend, who died when he was 9 years old).
What will she miss most about high school?
“Now I’m home with my parents and friends and I always have a support system. In college, I won’t know anyone.”
What are your hobbies?
I read a lot, bake elaborate cakes, I like band and listening to music and working in theater — especially the tech side.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
Tamora Pierce, my favorite author.
Who is someone who inspired you?
Damien, my friend who died from acute lymphoblastic leukemia when I was in seventh grade. He knew he was dying when he came home from the hospital, but he still wanted friends to come over and have fun.
What do you do when you want to get away from it all?
I read. Reading is like going into another world.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Getting a full ride to college.
Is there a time in history you wish you could have witnessed?
The French Revolution — because “Les Misérables” is my favorite musical and I’d like to see what really happened.
Is there something about you that would surprise others?
Before fifth grade you couldn’t pay me to read. I hated it. Then I started reading books and I really liked it.