Placer senior plans to take work ethic from Auburn to Atlanta

Niegmann is carrying on family trait of determination
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Kaj Niegmann said he will take his work ethic with him as he leaves high school and faces the adventure of the rest of his life. Niegmann, 18, has excelled academically at Placer High School, with a 4.33 grade point average, and on the track field. Niegmann was given the Most Dedicated Vaulter Award this year. “Kaj is a great pole vaulter, really dedicated, worked really hard,” said Kent Rhodes, pole vaulting coach at Placer High. “He’s gotten better every year. Hopefully he can find time in his college career to do a little bit of it.” For now Niegmann is planning to leave the city of Auburn and travel to Atlanta, Ga. “I’m attending Georgia Institute of Technology, and I’m majoring in industrial design,” Niegmann said. “(It’s) just a change of pace. It’s going to be in the middle of Atlanta. That is going to be quite the change. I kind of want to go from the small town to the big city, see which one I like and then determine the rest of my life from that.” During his sophomore or junior year Niegmann is planning to take advantage of the school’s study abroad program by attending Lund University in Sweden. Niegmann is half Swedish and said he also plans to see his grandmother during that time. Niegmann said he normally visits her about every three years. “I just want to go into that culture a little more, the other half of my family,” Niegmann said. Niegmann said his goal is to have a job where he can build cars, other vehicles and planes, which is something he has thought about since he was young. “I kind of want to be in between an engineer and a designer, because I want to design it and then build it,” he said. “Ever since I was a kid when my dad was fixing the car I would always be there.” Niegmann has taken a year of auto shop and two years of Placer’s Mechatronics classes. When he leaves the halls of Placer for the final time, Niegmann said he will take something with him. “Probably a work ethic,” he said. “With all those (advanced placement) classes, that taught me a good work ethic. I know what I’m interested in now with all the classes I took. My mom is a teacher. She just taught me good study habits. I figured grades are what gets you started in life, so I figured I had better get ones. My dad used to tell me, ‘If you are going to do it, do it right.’ So, I just did the best I could.” His many activities kept him working hard, Niegmann said. “There were lots of sleepless nights,” he said. “Because I have played soccer and track, and I have taken a lot of AP classes. I would stay up until 2 a.m. studying and then I would have to wake up at 5 a.m. and keep studying. It was just a lot of reading the books.” Niegmann’s senior project was something that connected to his interests. “I restored a 1980 Puch Maxi Moped,” he said. “It’s from Austria. My (senior project) paper was on the moped culture. It’s like a whole lifestyle. It’s all about having fun.” Niegmann said he helped his friend rebuild one as well and the two plan to camp north of San Francisco and ride the mopeds along the coast after graduation. Niegmann said his older brother Torsten, 24, is currently attending graduate school in Sweden and his parents seem to have different feelings about him leaving for Georgia. “(My dad) doesn’t have too big a problem with me going I don’t think,” he said. “My mom, she’s a little sad with me going away because I can’t visit. But it was one of the better schools I got into, so they were pretty happy.” Brittany Haydon, Niegmann’s English teacher, said she is going to miss Niegmann, but is excited for all the experiences that are headed his direction. “As a student Kaj is just highly focused and organized,” Haydon said. “He appears to be very laid back and calm, and he is, but there’s also just a real determination about him. He is fun and very kind and he’s very bright. He’s got an adventurous spirit. He’s just such a nice kid, and I know that sounds so generic, but he’s just a wonderful student. He’s just totally self-directed.” Rhodes said he thinks Niegmann is carrying on a legacy that his family has already started. “I think Kaj’s commitment to his family, his school, his future career is really a great testament to him and his family,” Rhodes said. “His brother was that way. His dad is a very dedicated coach at Placer as well. You can see this history that he’s fulfilling as his entire family has. It’s great to see that as a coach and somebody’s who’s watched him before he ever got to Placer. It’s always exciting and rewarding to see someone achieve everything Kaj has achieved.” Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------ Placer High senior pre-graduation events Senior Boards: Wednesday Finals, senior check out: Wednesday, Thursday Graduation practice: 8 a.m. Friday. Meet in the gym. Senior picnic is planned to immediately follow the practice. Graduation: Seniors meet at 8 a.m. Saturday in the gym. Graduation starts at 9 a.m. in Le Febvre Stadium.