Jennifer Nguyen is bright and soft-spoken. Sitting in the living room of her family teachers’ home on the Boys Town campus, the high school senior thoughtfully considers her answer before explaining why she chose to run for mayor of Boys Town.
“This is my home,” Jennifer says, after a moment. “I want to give back to Boys Town.”
In May, the 17-year-old was elected the 115th mayor of Boys Town. Nguyen and Vice Mayor Tessa Miller are only the second female mayor-vice mayor duo in Boys Town’s history.
Nguyen wants to serve the community, her home since she was 12, that has done so much for her. After she graduates from high school, she would like to attend Wayne State College and study business. The future looks bright, but it wasn’t always quite like this.
“It was tough,” Nguyen says. “For a while, I wasn’t sure I’d get past junior year.”
Her family teachers, Scott and Kim Kavanaugh, affirm her statement, saying they have seen a remarkable change in her over the past four and a half years they have known her. Like many kids her age, Nguyen had trouble in school and her grades suffered, but she turned things around in a remarkable way.
“We’re just so proud of her,” Scott says. “She strives for excellence in everything she does. It was tough there for a while, but now she gets upset when she gets a B.”
Still, when Nguyen first told them she wanted to run for mayor, the Kavanaughs were a bit surprised. It’s a lengthy, selective process. Nguyen, who has always been a little reserved and reluctant to speak up in a group, would have to give a speech before the entire student body.
“We asked her, ‘Do you really want to do this?’” Kim says.
But Nguyen was sure.
“Ever since we were in eighth grade, my friends and I talked about it,” she explains. It was something she really wanted and she was willing to put herself out there to accomplish it.
With help from the Kavanaughs, Nguyen got endorsements from her teachers and community director. They created posters and pamphlets. She prepared to address the entire student body. And on May 5, the students voted and Nguyen was elected the 2015-2016 mayor of Boys Town. She says she hopes other students will see her as a positive example.
“Being able to role model for others is really neat to me,” she says.
In addition to her new role as mayor, Nguyen is captain of the soccer team and a member of the color guard, student council, junior ROTC, and National Honors Society. Even with a busy schedule of school and extracurricular activities, she believes making time for service to others is important.
“Jennifer has always been a person who gives back,” Scott says. “She sees the needs of others.”
Boys Town founder Edward J. Flanagan conceived its student government system as a way for students to build character, citizenship, and a sense of community. In Nguyen, that legacy lives on.
“I want to make Boys Town feel like home for all of the students and encourage everyone to get involved.”