Jacob Nowlan, of Snohomish, recently became an Eagle Scout. He built a trail near this spot in a meadow at Zion Lutheran School in Lake Stevens, which he attended. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Jacob Nowlan, of Snohomish, recently became an Eagle Scout. He built a trail near this spot in a meadow at Zion Lutheran School in Lake Stevens, which he attended. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Snohomish student overcame debilitating migraines to excel

At the homeschool program Academy Northwest, senior Jacob Nowlan finds himself thriving again.

SNOHOMISH — Jacob Nowlan, 18, is a senior at the homeschool program Academy Northwest in Snohomish. Persistent migraines and other health problems pushed him out of a traditional high school environment two years ago. Today, he’s a National Honor Society student, Eagle Scout and looking ahead to college.

Question: So you go to Academy Northwest?

Answer: Academy Northwest is a homeschool program. It’s been very useful for me since it only meets Mondays. At my old school, with my migraines I couldn’t go every day. Now I can go Mondays and then the rest of the week focus on and off when I can.

Q: How long have you been dealing with migraines?

A: Since probably near the end of eighth grade they started to come on. It was steadily increasing … Starting senior year it started to settle down.

Q: You got familiar with hospitals and doctor offices, it sounds like.

A: Doctors, MRIs, CT scans, a spinal tap. All of which showed nothing. So it’s pushing through it, and moving on.

Q: In spite of all that, you do well academically. What classes are you taking?

A: I’m currently taking geometry, world history, civics, U.S. history, English and Spanish for a language credit. I’m able to get through and take them pretty easily. Moving out of (Glacier Peak High School halfway through) sophomore year, I’m catching up on some credits for English.

Q: What’s after high school?

A: I’ve already decided I’m going to Northwest University in Kirkland. I visited a few times and went to sign up for classes. (I plan to study) psychology. I’m deciding whether to go into therapy or more the detective side of things. I’m leaning more at the moment toward detective work.

Q: What prompted that?

A: I’ve always found it fun to figure things out, and I’ve always been interested in police work. It’s something I would enjoy doing. (On the psychology side) another thing is always trying to find ways to see things in a better light. I struggled with depression and anxiety. … I felt it was something I could do to help others.

Q: What keeps you busy outside of your studies?

A: Every Tuesday I go to Scouting. There’s Venture Crew, that meets once a month to plan events, everything from bowling to big things, like going to Florida … Mondays, I go to a hobby store to play games — trading cards games, and Warhammer. Throughout the week I have work, and Sundays I have church and I like to help out at the youth ministry.

Q: What’s your job?

A: I work as an after-care worker (at alma mater Zion Lutheran School in Lake Stevens). We watch the kids and join them in whatever they’re doing or set up games until they can be picked up.

Q: You did your Eagle Scout project at that school as well?

A: I laid out a trail that was 270 feet long, made of three layers of bark. Originally it was supposed to be (lined with) 12 posts. We miscounted and have 14 posts. On 12 of them are signs with the 12 points of the Scout Law and there are solar lights on all of them.

Q: What are the 12 points?

A: Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Q: What’s been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

A: I think mostly it was overcoming myself. When I had my migraines, it’s like, “I’m going to be stuck with this. Nothing’s going to change.” Then depression and anxiety came on, and it got worse. I kept a lot of it internally. It actually changed when I went to Cascades Camp in Yelm. I was going then to train to work. It changed how I look at life. It reaffirmed my faith, and I was able to share what was going on with other people … I didn’t need to hide anymore … I could be myself again.

Q: Has there been anyone who has been a mentor?

A: One person has held the title of my mentor (from church). His name is Free Hinton. He’s the one who showed me different ways to look at things. He showed me the games that I play. At a time when I was sitting in my room doing nothing, it gave me something to do. I visit (him and his family) a lot.

Q: What advice would you give a teen just starting high school?

A: It won’t be easy, not always easy. But if you can, take the time to take a breath and focus on one problem at a time, and keep pushing through it. When it gets hard, take a break. But don’t stop. Keep going. Turn to someone around you and tell them, and you’ll find the help you need.

Melissa Slager: mslager@heraldnet.com, 425-339-3432.

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