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Eagle Point senior perseveres despite hardships

When Eagle Point High School senior Kody Nielsen stepped onto the football field, he was not just trying to win the game. He was trying to create a better life for himself and his family.

"My family wanted to see me do better than they did in their lives, and they always told me that football builds character, so I stuck with it," Nielsen said. "It helped keep me out of trouble, get good grades and make some friends."

Nielsen grew up alternating between foster homes and living in an apartment or trailer park with his mom, Kory Nielsen.

Nielsen said seeing how hard his mom works and how strong she is motivates him to "keep his head up" and work for a better life. Nielsen is also motivated by being a good example for his brother, a freshman.

"He's not totally into school, but I'm trying to help him change his attitude towards it and help him like school," Nielsen said.

Nielsen also participates in SkillsUSA, an organization that links teachers, students and industry professionals to help prepare high schoolers for skills-based jobs.

In statewide competitions, Nielsen took third in a job skills demonstration and fifth in crime scene investigation.

While it can be difficult to keep up a good grade point average — he has a 3.1 GPA — and manage his time, Nielsen prefers to stay busy.

"I'd rather do a lot of things to help keep my mind off the struggles," he said. "It helps keep me distracted and gives me some good stuff to do."

Next year, Nielsen plans to attend Southern Oregon University with the help of a scholarship. He also hopes to walk-on for the Raiders football team and keep doing the thing he credits with keeping his life on track: playing football.

"Coach always told us that quitting was the easy way and taking the tough route is building character," Nielsen said. "Living in trailer parks and having to watch my mom struggle to barely get by paycheck to paycheck kinda helped me realize that maybe if I did stick to football, I will build a better life for myself."

Kelsey Thomas is a reporting intern for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at kthomas@mailtribune.com.

Eagle Point senior perseveres despite hardships