Class of 2020: Hayden senior is driven by his love for politics
HAYDEN — As Hayden High School senior Jack Nelms heads off to college in the fall, he finds himself thankful he ended up in a friendly, rural town.
“I know everybody here, and everyone gets along real well,” Jack said.
A transplant from Michigan, Jack hasn’t always been so welcomed.
“I came from a big city in Michigan,” he said. “The school was a very toxic environment, and I used to get bullied a lot.”
One might be puzzled at that statement since the teenager, sitting at his aunt’s dining table, is not only funny but intelligent and gregarious.
So it may come as a surprise to most people when meeting Jack that he suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome.
“It’s just something you won’t particularly notice unless you look for it,” he said.
“I used to be really sensitive about it, and it was a touchy subject, but I can joke about it now.”
While Jack dealt with an unfriendly environment while young, he slowly learned to concentrate and somewhat control his tics that are caused by this neural disorder. Tics range from raising an arm spontaneously to closing one’s eyes or shouting out words. It’s not considered a disability but a motor disorder.
“The synapses in your brain backfire and make you do things you don’t want to do,” Jack said. “You can even feel them coming on, like an urge.”
When his family moved from Michigan for work, Jack said Hayden’s friendly environment made coping easier.
“Everybody was so nice to me and understood my condition. There’s a lot of kindness in Hayden,” Jack said.
But his teachers and principal say it’s Jack who brings out the best in people.
“This kid is absolutely fantastic,” said English teacher Tina Benish-Holmes. “He’s always the first one to say good morning and has the best manners. He’s also hilarious and makes people smile.”
Principal Gina Zabel said Jack may have been a little self-conscious when he started high school but soon flourished.
“He joined a theater production, and it was incredible that he felt comfortable enough to join our debate and speech team, too,” Zabel said. “Considering his disorder, that says an awful lot about him.”
While Jack is known for his sense of humor and self-deprecation, it’s his love of politics that drives him.
“He loves politics and loves to debate it, but it’s all done with respect,” said Benish-Holmes.
Jack lived with his aunt and uncle through most of his high school, and they’re accustomed to hearing Jack’s political rants as he enjoys his political shows 24/7.
“He’s going to make a great politician some day,” said his aunt, Ashley Tokarski.
Even his younger brother Tyler chimed in.
“He’s going to be president, and I’m gonna be first brother,” he said.
Jack will be joining his best friend Theo Corrello at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction where Jack plans to study political science with an eye on a law degree.
“I love that he speaks up for what’s right and what he believes in,” Corrello said. “And he’s always helped out people with their own issues. He’s very empathetic.”
Asked what advice he’d give to incoming freshmen, Jack suggested getting involved in extracurricular activities as soon as possible.
“I waited until my last year,” he said. “You shouldn’t be afraid to try everything. You won’t be able to experience this later in life. Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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