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BK student wins award for inspiring, encouraging others

The following story appeared in the May 26 Idaho Catholic Register.

Faith Nichols is with a young girl at a Protestant mission in Haiti. Nichols looks forward to helping in more mission trips now that pandemic restrictions have lifted. (Courtesy photo/Faith Nichols)

By Emily Woodham

Staff Writer

Faith Nichols, graduating senior at Bishop Kelly High School, likes finding the good in any situation. “I’m kind of a glass-half-full person,” Nichols said, a perspective that largely comes from her faith in God.

Nichols is this year’s recipient of the Fran Wickham Fellowship Award, named for a former theology teacher at Bishop Kelly, the late Dr. Fran Wickham.

“The qualities of the award winner are one who is a community builder who joyfully shares their faith,” said Mike Caldwell, principal at Bishop Kelly. The senior also “encourages and welcomes others to share their faith,” he said.

“Faith Nichols authentically embodies everything that this nomination seeks to acknowledge. She is a faith-filled individual who inspires and encourages others to openly share and live their faith as well,” Caldwell said. He added that it is “only a bonus coincidence” that this year’s award winner is named, “Faith.”

Faith Nichols, left, with her older brother, Adam, and older sister, Elle. Nichols is grateful, she said, for the time she spent with family during the COVID pandemic, before her older siblings moved out of state for college. (Courtesy photo/Faith Nichols)

“She fits her name to a tee,” said her mother Missy Nichols, who teaches English and is head coach for softball at Bishop Kelly. “This is a girl who is spiritually sensitive to the reality of Jesus Christ and she believes it with absolute certainty. That’s a treasure to be able to say about a child, and I’ll take it!”

However, Nichols is not Catholic. At least, not yet.

“I am going to go to OCIA (Order of Christian Initiation for Adults) at St. Thomas in Coeur d’Alene while I go to North Idaho College,” Nichols said. Her mother is currently enrolled in OCIA.

While attending St. Mark’s School in Boise in the sixth grade, Faith Nichols started to feel like she belonged more in the Catholic community than in the Lutheran Church. Her mother’s father is a Lutheran pastor. “I attend my grandpa’s church, but I spend more time in the Catholic community,” she said. “My grandpa feels like as long as I find faith, that’s all that matters.”

Nichols’ family moved to Boise from California when she was 3. She attended the Ambrose School in Meridian until sixth grade, when her mother began teaching English at Bishop Kelly.

“When I first switched schools, the Catholic faith was very foreign to me,” Nichols said. She also had to adjust to the classroom and teaching methods at St. Mark’s, which were structured differently than the Classical approach at Ambrose.

“For the first three months, I hated it. But I cannot express how grateful I am that my mom did not let me move back to the Ambrose School. I found better friends than I could have imagined at St. Mark’s. I also learned so much from the teachers there,” she said.

She was excited to start at Bishop Kelly. She immediately joined the varsity softball team and served as a member of the student council, helping with events. However, she was able to play only three games and then all events had to stop when schools shutdown due to the COVID pandemic in March of 2020.

Although there were difficulties to overcome with school, Nichols appreciated the time she had with family during the pandemic. “I have two older siblings, and I’m pretty close to them. My freshman year was the first year that my brother had gone away to college in Wisconsin. When COVID happened, he got to come home. My dad was laid off, and my mom wasn’t able to really work. So for three months we all got to be together,” she said.

That summer her brother returned to Wisconsin, and her sister also went out of state for college. “It was nice to have all that time together before we got split up,” she said.

At the beginning of her sophomore year in the fall of 2020, her paternal grandfather was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. “That was pretty hard. We had to watch my grandpa slowly deteriorate,” she said.

“It was really sad, but it was also really inspiring the way he faced it,” she said. Her grandfather told her that he was in God’s hands and that whatever happened, he knew he was going to heaven. (Her father’s side of the family are members of the Church of the Nazarene.)

“It’s a really big family on my dad’s side. My grandpa was the patriarch,” she said. “It was really hard not having that leader in the family anymore. He really did teach me a lot about understanding God’s will, and trusting God’s will even if it’s not necessarily what we imagined for ourselves.”

“I wrote my senior thesis on how bad things are going to happen in everybody’s life,” she said. “Your perspective affects whether those bad things have a positive or negative effect on your life.”

Faith gives one proper perspective, she said. “I learned a lot from the theology teachers at BK, like relying on God in good and hard times.”

Nichols has been active in campus ministry at Bishop Kelly for all of her high school years. She has attended classes, assisted in activities and served as a teacher’s aide.

Outside of school, she has served on the God Squad (a group of young people who perform skits, dance and help the worship team) for the Idaho Catholic Youth Conference. She is also on the leadership team for the youth group at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise.

Along with her campus ministry activities, her favorite memories at Bishop Kelly are winning the state championship for varsity softball in 2021 and 2022 and the many activities she helped with for the student council.

The junior retreat, however, topped them all. Each year, juniors go to a retreat center in the mountains for a time of prayer, talks on spirituality, Adoration and Reconciliation. “That’s probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” she said.

“I felt really tired and burnt out, but it was so good. A lot of friendships blossomed from that retreat.”

Her favorite teacher was her mom, she said. “She’s my best friend.” But a close second was Father Greg Vance, S.J., who taught a class on the writings of author J.R.R. Tolkien. “That was one of my favorite classes,” she said.

Nichols will be playing softball for North Idaho College while she studies psychology. She plans to have a career as a counselor. To help with her tuition, she received the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship and a softball award from North Idaho College.

Although she wants to have a strong career, family life is also important to her. She admires her mom and looks forward to being a mom herself. She hopes to have a large family.

No matter what she does for a career, she plans to travel a lot. Her family travels frequently, including to Europe. After graduation, they will travel to Norway to visit relatives.

Now that COVID restrictions are lifted, Nichols wants to do mission work again. She went to Haiti for a Protestant mission team the summers before eighth and ninth grades. “It was really fun. The kids were all so joyful all the time. It was eye-opening to see how little some of the people have, but they make that choice to be joyful.”

As she looks back at all her memories at Bishop Kelly, she can’t imagine going anywhere else for high school, she said. “My teachers have cared about me so much,” she said. She loves how teachers reach out to students for academic well-being and also to make sure students are doing OK on a bad day. “It’s such a welcoming community,” she said.

A quick look at BK’s Class of 2023

Left: Daniel Ni, Valedictorian and Right: Cody Bockenstette, Salutatorian

• Total Graduates: 212

• Graduates with a weighted GPA of 4.0 or higher: 71

• Graduates with a weighted GPA of 3.75 to a 4.0: 40

• National Merit Finalists: 5 (Andrew Martin, Daniel Ni, Lindsey McBride, Molly O’Sullivan and Megan Woodworth)

• National Merit Commended Scholars: 6 (Halle Hatten, Baer Istok,

Kylie Jackson, Justine Lam, Sophia Puype and Grace Shirley)

• Presidential Scholar Candidates: 5 (Baer Istok, Lindsey McBride,

Molly O’Sullivan, Grace Schlafer and Megan Woodworth

• Capstone Diploma Candidates: 11 (Joelle Alex, Cody Bockenstette, Justine Lam, Daniele Macdonald, Ella Macdonald, Lindsey McBride, Sarah Mooney, Daniel Ni, Gracie Schlafer, Eve Sprute and Maddie Welsh) AP Capstone ™ is a diploma program based on two AP courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. These yearlong courses focus on developing the critical thinking, research, collaboration, time management, and presentation skills one needs for college-level work. Students who earn a score of 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research and on four additional AP Exams of their choosing are eligible to receive the AP Capstone Diploma.

• Rotary Century Scholars: 11 (Cody Bockenstette, Megan Woodworth, Daniel Ni, Grace Schlafer, Lindsey McBride, Grace Shirley, Nicole Saso, Maximillian Ciovacco, Justine Lam, Halle Hatten and Molly O’Sullivan)

• Air Force Academy Appointment: Grace Shirley

• West Point Appointments: 3 (Jackson Sarrazolla, Claire Wimer and Ethan McIntyre

• Air Force ROTC Scholarship: Cody Bockenstette

• Navy ROTC Scholarship: Abigail Severance

• Marine Corps ROTC Scholarship: Sullivan Bly

• National Speech & Debate Association Academic All American Award: Gia Codina and Molly O’Sullivan

• Francis Wickham Fellowship Award: Faith Nichols

• Plowshares Peacemaker Award: Kevin Corrigan

• Bishop Kelly Principal’s Award: Juliana Puzio and Noah Larson

• John Baptist de la Salle Teacher of the Year Award: Mr. Jacob Spears, Language Arts.

• Do Good Recognition: Mrs. Cecelia Flores, Facilities and Maintenance

• Student athletes who signed letters of intent to compete at college or university level: 34

• Fall State Academic Championships: Boys Cross Country, Boys Soccer, Football and Boys Swimming

• Winter State Academic Championships: Cheer, Dance, Wrestling, Boys Basketball

• Fall State Athletic Championships: Boys Cross Country, Girls Soccer, Boys Golf

• Winter State Athletic Championships: Hockey

• Spring State Athletic Championship (to date): Speech

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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