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North Hills High School senior Wright earns honor

North Hills Senior High School senior Jennifer Wright, center, poses with her English teacher, Mark Franks, at left, and Theodora Polamalu, the wife of Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu on Dec. 12, 2012. Wright was named the November Student of the Month in a nationwide contest conducted by, an arm of the Troy and Theodora Polamalu Foundation, a charity run by the Steeler and his wife. Wright, 17, of Ross Township, was recognized for her academic achievement and strength of character.

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By Melanie Donahoo
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Jennifer Wright thought it was a normal school day, but the North Hills Senior High School senior was surprised in English class by a visit from Theodora Polamalu, wife of Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu.

As the November Student of the Month, Jennifer was chosen from more than 300 student nominations in a nationwide contest conducted by, an arm of the Troy and Theodora Polamalu Foundation, a charity run by the Pittsburgh Steeler and his wife.

“I was very surprised and shocked,” Jennifer, 17, said. “I didn't even know what to do.”

Wright was nominated by North Hills English teacher Mark Franks of Shaler, who said that not only is Wright a good student, she lives her life with “absolute sincerity.”

“Jen deliberately attempts to lead a good life,” Franks said. “In today's world, I believe that should be recognized.”

Theodora Polamalu presented Jennifer Wright with a prize basket Dec. 12 that contained an Apple iPad tablet; Beats by Dr. Dre headphones; items from the Brand Legendary clothing line; and a football, jersey, and photo, all autographed by Troy Polamalu.

The basket also contained Head and Shoulders products, which Polamalu promotes in a national advertising campaign. has presented the Student of the Month award to deserving children and young adults across the nation for three years. Teachers of all grade levels from kindergarten to college are eligible to nominate a student in any of their current classes for the award, which recognizes academic achievement and strength of character.

Wright credits her earlier education at St. Sebastian School in Ross Township for teaching her to think of other people and goes on mission trips to poverty-stricken Appalachian regions in Kentucky with her church youth group, along with doing other volunteer work. She participates in the parish youth-group musical, which raises money for those in need in Peru and Appalachia.

“I truly believe I was put on this earth to help other people,” Wright said. “I think that I get a better experience in life if I'm not just thinking of myself.”

After she graduates from high school in the spring, Wright said, she plans to go to college and then medical school to become a physician who travels to Third World countries to help people with no medicine or regular access to doctors.

“I can never put into words how strongly and deeply I love helping others,” said Wright, the daughter of Colette and Terrence Wright of Ross Township.

To thank Franks for his nomination, Wright had the autographed Polamalu photo from her prize basket professionally framed and gave it to her teacher for Christmas with an attached note.

“The note stated that she didn't want me to feel left out,” Franks said. “That's the kind of person Jen Wright is.”

Melanie Donahoo is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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