BY SABRINE BRISMEUR
One thing about senior Nicole “Nikki” Tjin a Djie is certain: she isn’t easily defined.
“I want to give a voice to the underdog and the outcast,” she says, wringing her hands and giving off an aura of vulnerable, flattered sheepishness that doesn’t quite match with her otherwise confident demeanor.
The president of the Cooper City’s National Honor Society (NHS) and the Vice President of the Student Government Association (SGA), Tjin a Djie’s resumé is far from lacking. But her motivation for taking on such formidable leadership positions lies in helping other people, and this purpose in life has guided many of her actions.
“Nikki has an insatiable thirst for knowledge,” her aunt Barbara Tjin a Djie said. “She is very well read and extremely interesting to talk to about any topic, from ancient history to current events.”
Tjin a Djie’s most admirable character traits presented themselves at an early age. As a child, Tjin a Djie was book-shy but ambitious, a lover of the outdoors, an expert fort architect, and an ardent consumer of knowledge. Her need to satisfy her curiosity led to a collection of scientific books that she didn’t completely comprehend but revered anyway.
“I had a book on space and a book on sharks. My favorite word was Megalodon, and I loved to tell people all these random facts about the Megalodon shark,” said Tjin a Djie. “And I had a book about the universe. I didn’t even understand it, but since I was five I’ve known that the sun was ninety-three million miles away.”
Tjin a Djie attended American Heritage until her sophomore year, when she transferred to Cooper City High School. From her freshman year, Tjin a Djie dreamed of being a member of NHS and SGA in order to become more involved with the community. By her junior year at Cooper City, she had not only become a member of the clubs, but secured a position on the SGA executive board and the tutoring coordinator position for NHS.
Her success can, in part, be credited to her unique approach to leadership. Preferring to work one-on-one with people and actively seeking out those who seem like they need help, Tjin a Djie is able to make members of her clubs and community feel valued.
“My leadership style is very different. I’m not as outgoing and bubbly as a lot of leaders, and that’s something I’ve realized,” she said. “I want to know people’s stories, and I use what I’ve gone through as a person to help others.”
Tjin a Djie is especially vocal about her relationship with NHS, emphasizing running for president was something she did because it aligned with her values. After participating in the NHS mock debate during the election cycle, and realizing she wanted to be the biggest part of a club she found so rewarding, Tjin a Djie decided to run for president at the end of her junior year.
Unsurprisingly, she collected both the presidential position of NHS and the second vice presidential position of SGA with ease. Working under English teacher Natalie Flaten for SGA and American History teacher Dwayne Dixon for NHS, her peers and superiors believe there are few people better for the job than Tjin a Djie.
Her superiors agree.
“She is a passionate, hardworking, loyal, dependable individual who has all these lofty goals of achieving great things. I believe with her guidance and leadership, we’re going to achieve the things that she’s planned,” added Dixon.
Tjin a Djie’s main goal as president of NHS is to engage the student populace in acts of citizenship. With a strong interest in politics and humanitarian efforts, she finds student awareness in the public school system vital.
Her involvement in DECA, an internationally-recognized high school association dealing in business, led her to start her own small business project during her junior year. Even when the main goal was profit, Tjin a Djie kept her humanitarian interests in mind, selling charity bracelets for the organization Malaria No More in order to combat the disease in Africa.
“I think it’s very valuable to serve others, because it benefits you in a way,” she said. “Any individual can change the world. It starts somewhere, and I think people underestimate how much they can do. A lot of people give up and say, ‘I don’t matter. I’ll just live my life for me.’ But I think you can live a very fulfilling life and help other people along the way.”
Beyond serving the community of Cooper City High, Tjin a Djie’s most evident passion lies in helping people through politics, law, education, and grassroot movements. Tjin a Djie has lobbied for education in Tallahassee, attended school board meetings, and worked for local politicians. Describing herself as a strong proponent of the public school system, Tjin a Djie hopes to utilize its potential in order to facilitate citizenship development.
Though she is unsure of the direction her future will take her, Tjin a Djie’s love for assisting others has led her to two career choices: politics, or law, both of which she is greatly interested in. Explaining that politics allows her to shape society on a large scale, while law lets her change an individual’s life on a small scale, Tjin a Djie’s “voice for the underdog” mantra resonates in her career interests.
“I want to go into a profession where I can know the laws and genuinely help people,” she said. “Not just advance in a career. I’d love to go into law and be a public defender for those who have been cheated by the criminal justice system. Or go into politics, as cringeworthy as it is right now, where it’s about getting more power, not helping people.”
Ultimately, Tjin a Djie hopes to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., or Florida State University, both of which are situated at capitals on a state and national level. With her love for the international humanitarian cause, Tjin a Djie is looking to Northeastern University in Massachusetts, which offers a program for their students to work with the United Nations.
“If I were to go into politics, my dream would be to be on the Florida House while I’m still in college [attending FSU],” she said. “I know that sounds crazy, but people have done it. You only have to be 21 to be on the Florida House.”
As for her personal life, Tjin a Djie hopes to pursue her wanderlust and visit all fifty states on a roadtrip. Her adventurous streak from childhood has never gone away, and exploring the world and what it has to offer remains one of her great loves in life.
“I’m always up for an adventure, and no matter how reckless, I’d do it,” she said. “I want to see the world at the largest scale possible and understand as much as I can.”