Students inspired to aim high by own struggles

Jayla Kannianen

Seniors all over North Dakota are chomping at the bit, awaiting their graduations and the next chapter of their lives. South Prairie School seniors Riley Johnson and Jayla Kannianen are two of the many who plan to go to the University of North Dakota in the fall.

South Prairie School District will be holding its graduation at the school on Sunday, May 19, at 2:30 p.m.

Both Johnson and Kannianen have been attending South Prairie for nine years, also sharing the same career choice: surgeons.

The fields they want to go into differ.

Johnson said he would like to go into ophthalmology, diagnosing and treating eye disorders, or orthopedics, dealing with diseases and injuries surrounding ligaments, tendons, muscles, bones, joints and nerves.

Riley Johnson

He currently works as an optical technician and he really enjoys what he does.

His interest in orthopedic surgery was sparked by tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) nine plays into the first game of the football season last fall. To have the ACL repaired, he had to have surgery. The aspect of fixing something like a ligament through open surgery piqued his curiosity.

Kannianen said her specialty will more than likely be cardiothoracic surgery. She finds the heart perplexing and open brain surgery to be intimidating “because there’s a lot of pressure.”

Going into the medical field was inspired by having a lot of health issues when she was younger. She nearly lost a kidney because of a clogged blood vessel. Her family went to several different doctors before a doctor in South Dakota found it when she was 7 years old.

“Just knowing that somebody can really care about a patient like that is just awesome,” Kannianen said.

She and Johnson would also like to be able to stay at UND for medical school, but getting in can be described as “competitive.” Even though they may complete their bachelor’s degrees, it is not guaranteed they will get a spot. If they are not able to get into UND for med school, they said they will look at other options when the time comes.

Minot State University was an option for them to do their general education classes, but it is not guaranteed that all of their college credits will transfer from one school to the other. They would rather not risk it and do all of their academics at a single institution.

Johnson and Kannianen also said they want to stay close to North Dakota after finishing their residency. They may branch out to other states “to see what’s out there,” but will not go too far.

Altogether, each of them is looking at between 10 to 15 years of schooling before they will be completely finished. Johnson estimated about three years for the undergraduate degree, around four years for medical school and three to five years for a residency in a hospital.

They were able to finish around 31 college credits while they were in high school, as the option to start taking college classes as a sophomore was available to them.

“I think we get a lot more opportunities here,” Johnson said.

Other things he participated in are Future Farmers of America, trap shooting and basketball.

Kannianen competed in the 100-meter sprint, 200-meter sprint, long jump and triple jump in track and field for a few years, as well.

Neither of them have a backup plan, wanting to “stick to it” and finish medical school to go on to a residency.

“I don’t want to have a backup plan, because then I kind of doubt things. I want to stick to it and do it. … I’m just going to go full throttle,” Johnson said.

South Prairie Graduates

Honor Students

Altschuler, Rebecca

Anderson, Kassandra

Bailey, Elora

Bearman, Taya

Dobson, Ethan

Eberle, Brenna

Falcon, Rayna

Greene, Rylan

Hoffman, Izabela

Jimenez, Elias

Johnson, Connor

Johnson, Riley

Kannianan, Jayla

Klein, Drew

Kramer, Jacob

Newman, Adam

Schmidt, Sydney

Thomas, Carlyn

Trowbridge, Haley

Other Graduates

Anderson, Taylor

Asmundson, Lee

Bagwell, Josiah

Caldwell, Samuel

Cooper, Hunter

DeCoteau, Xander

Eklie, Peyton

Frounfelter, Annabelle

Gilbertson, Aurora

Groninger, Joshua

Hawkins, Aidan

Hillestad, Gage

Johnson, Ethan

Kirk, Gavin

Mikkelson, Bradyn

Rice, Hailey

Schneekloth, Uriah

Seykora, Faith

Sorenson, Kerzy

Sys, Cameron

Taylor, Lane

Weiskopf, Ally

Weiskopf, Ella


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