Profile: Pioneer’s Nels Erickson has engineered quite a high school scrapbook


Nels Erickson is one of those students who not only likes to open doors in high school but walk right on in and turn opportunity into lessons and memories. He didn’t just go to class at Pioneer High School, he took advantage of everything he could to make himself stronger, smarter, better.

Now a senior, Erickson has some advice for those students heading to high school in the near future.

“One piece of advice I would give to freshman is live in the moment,” he said. “It’s cheesy but high school goes by so fast and if you don’t stop every so often to take in the world around you, you will miss out on so many incredible experiences and opportunities,” says Erickson. “Another tip is to not procrastinate. Don’t push things off until the last day, space it out and chunk it up, otherwise you will cause yourself so much added stress. And above all, don’t forget to have fun.”

The son of Kathleen Garvey and Steve Erickson, Nels certainly “lived in the moment” at Pioneer. His busy schedule include plenty of music – he was in Concert and Symphony band as well as Concert and Symphony Orchestra. He played the oboe and English horn.

He also was heavily involved in robotics and has been the captain of the team for two years and earned two varsity letters. He also spent two years on the track and field team.

And if that wasn’t enough, Erickson was involved with the National Honor Society and was a teacher’s aide in Mr. Rice’s Algebra.

Outside of Pioneer, Erickson participated in a Blue Lake International Wind Ensemble and the Michigan Youth Symphony Band. He also is a manager at a Jimmy Johns in Ann Arbor and will be working for Magna International, a tier one automotive supplier, as an engineering intern over the summer.

So, yeah, his daily planner is quite full. As are his list of highlights and accomplishments.

“A few of the highlights from my four years would be travelling with Band and Orchestra (to Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, New York, and Chicago), playing on Carnegie Hall, participating in Robotics, meeting Jack Lousma and John Mackey, winning the Rensselaer Medal, a $100,000 scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in NY, as well as running track for two years and holding the school record in the triple Jump for a week and qualifying for the FIRST World Championship in robotics.”

Erickson says there have been many role models, especially teachers, along the way. They have had a “major impact” on who he is both as a student and as a person.

At the top of the list is Michele Macke.

“She was my math teacher freshman and sophomore year, and she really helped me blossom by teaching me not to be embarrassed by who I am as a person, and teaching me to never compromise who I am to please others,” he said.
Another teacher who had an equally large impact on Erickson was David Leach, the director of bands at Pioneer.

“I have been in class with him for four years and he has been a mentor and a counselor to me in times of distress and uncertainty,” Erickson said. “He has driven me to work as hard as I can, and shown me the benefits of hard work. He will forever be remembered as one of the great people in my life.”

Another teacher who had a “profound impact” is Dustin Quandt, who no longer teaches at Pioneer.

“He was my Geophysical Science teacher sophomore year, and he helped inspire my love for the physical sciences,” he said. “He was a great teacher and an even better person. He always told the best jokes and had the best attitude in the classroom. His class is still one of the best classes I ever took at Pioneer.”

Erickson, a 2017 Dean’s List semifinalist, has a 3.86 GPA. He will be attending the University of Minnesota next year to study chemical engineering.

“I picked UMN because its chemical engineering program is ranked in the top 10 in the country,” he said. “I also have always loved the Twin Cities so it was a natural fit.”

His short-term goals include graduating with a BS in Chemical Engineering, and getting a job in operations for an oil company or other petroleum related business.

“I hope to do operations engineering on oil rigs and platforms,” he said. “I also want to live somewhere other than the US for at least part of my career.”
No matter where he goes, however, Pioneer will be on his resume and in his heart.

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