Nicole Jewell: Former Leesville Road Star's Project Nets Family's Best Friend

  • Name: Nicole Jewell
  • Age: 21
  • Organization: Leesville Road HS, Northwestern University

Author: Patrick Kinas, creator.

(Photo courtesy: Nicole Jewell.)

The goal of a typical high school senior project is getting an “A”. In the case of former Leesville Road soccer star Nicole Jewell, her project netted her family – Jewells’ best friend.

The Jewell family tree has been rooted into soccer for the past decade. Nicole and her older sister Michelle could be found ubiquitously on any soccer field in the Triangle. Michelle, who now works at Cisco in the Triangle, played collegiately at Appalachian State. Nicole, 21, spent six years in the CASL soccer system, won two state titles and garnered a pair of All-State awards at Leesville Road High School, and will be wrapping up her college soccer career for the Northwestern Wildcats in the next two weeks. Senior day on Sunday, October 27th, will be a bittersweet day for the Jewell family.

Perhaps her parents’ – Brent and Diane – trip to suburban Chicago will bring another family member, 5-year-old Jody. Evanston, IL, which hugs Lake Michigan like strong arms cradling a newborn, is located just a handful of miles north of the Windy City. Whenever one ventures into a new city, it’s advised to bring a guide with you.

That’s where Jody enters the picture.

Jody is neither a younger brother nor sister in the Jewell family. Jody, however, was adopted from New York at the age of 9 weeks. But while Jody isn’t of the Jewell DNA, she is the Jewell family treasure, all thanks to Nicole’s unique high school senior project.

We Chose Jody

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is renowned for training purebred dogs to assist the lives of the blind and visually impaired across the nation. Based in New York and founded in 1954, Guiding Eyes for the Blind distinguished training has led to over 7,300 dogs assigned to needy people to enhance their lives and their independence.

This program connected with Nicole, and the wheels began to turn in her exceptionally gifted, industrial engineering-majored brain.

“I’m a huge dog lover,” Jewell said. “For my senior class project, I was looking to do something that I was going to enjoy. I wanted a project with an interesting cause, but I didn’t know much about it. I had seen service dogs before at the grocery store, then I looked into the program and my parents were on board.”

The program is intense with Guiding Eyes raising the puppies over the first nine weeks of their lives. There, they begin the immediate training process of commands, instruction and socialization. Over the next several weeks to months, the puppies are matched with volunteer puppy raisers, where their training continues.

That’s when the Jewell family stepped up.

“We went through the whole program as puppy raisers,” Jewell said. “We took care of Jody for about a year before they leave for formal training. There are home visits and class visits. They (GEB) want to make sure that you’ll put in the training and time needed to continue the development of the dogs.”

With this intense program designed to support people in need for critical everyday activities, the failure rate for the puppies is high.

“It’s a very strict program,” Jewell said. “If a dog gets three ear infections, they’re out. If they’re too small for the harness, which is very significant, they’re out. There are a lot of causes to have the dogs fail out of the program. But when they do, the puppy raisers get first choice on keeping the puppy as their pet.”

“We chose Jody.”

Northwestern Life and Beyond

“I’d never been to Chicago,” Jewell recalled after she committed to play soccer for the Wildcats.

As Jewell was determining her post-high school future with two first team All-State honors and a pair of 4A state titles on her resume, Jewell carefully looked at all of her options in 49 states.

“The first thing I did was eliminate all schools in North Carolina,” Jewell admitted in equal parts humor and candor. “I wanted a great school. I felt like college was the time to see another part of the country. I was looking at Cornell, then I narrowed it down a bit more. I learned a lot about soccer and recruiting. The more I learned about Northwestern, the more I fell in love with it. The proximity to Chicago was appealing, so I took a visit there and found it was the best blend of both academics & athletics. It was the best of both worlds.”

Jewell, who will graduate in June, 2014, jumped into the hyper-competitive industrial engineering (IE) department with the hopes of going into supply chain management and eventually getting an MBA.

“I like math and science, and within engineering, I enjoyed IE the best. There is lots of group work and a lot of business and corporate culture.”

Jewell interned at Strive Logistics, which is a premier multimodal transportation provider just south of Wrigley Field, gaining valuable knowledge last summer, while sneaking in a few Chicago Cubs games despite not being a big major league baseball fan.

Her final soccer season for the Wildcats (3-11-2 overall/1-7-0 Big 10) is winding down. After losses Friday and Sunday to Illinois and Ohio State, the prospect of reaching the Big 10 soccer tournament is slim.

But for the two-time Big 10 All-Academic honoree, Nicole can see her future, with the aid of Jody – the Jewell of the family.

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