Blessed with a Norwegian first name at birth, Signe Penn, 17, is a multi-instrumentalist.
The Bismarck High School senior plays the concert bass clarinet in wind ensemble, the piano in jazz band — previously, the tenor saxophone — and the cello in orchestra.
“I like performing,” she said. “I like the rehearsals, even though they’re not always the most exciting part. Then you get to perform and show how hard you’ve worked, and everyone stands up and claps. That’s just the best feeling ever.”
The straight-A student, who scored a 33 on her ACT exam, has taken eight advanced placement classes throughout her high school career, with AP Biology being her favorite. Anatomy and physiology, which she’s enrolled in this semester, is another one of her most-liked classes.
“I like working hard, and I like challenges. I like to be able to do something well and to succeed at it, even when it’s hard,” she said. “It feels really nice.”
Penn, who is a National Merit Semifinalist, is this week’s Teen of the Week.
“I have had some brilliant students walk through my doors. Signe easily ranks in the top five. She has a natural intelligence and is extremely hard working,” wrote BHS English instructor Rosann Jacobs-Fode, in a letter of recommendation. “She smiles openly and carries herself with a poise that is well beyond her years. In my room … Signe served as a unifier helping to bring the class together, to create a family out of random children.”
The teen recently received the National Council of Teachers of English’s Superior Writing Award.
“I wasn’t really expecting to get it, so it was really cool,” she said. “And I was the only one in our state to get it, so that was kind of amazing.”
Penn is a Northern Plains Dance ballerina and performs in three shows per year — two ballets and one all-inclusive performance, which merges multiple forms of art including dance, painting and music.
As a National Honor Society member, she also volunteers at the dance school as well as her church, Bismarck’s Charity Lutheran, where she’s taught Sunday school to third- and fifth-graders and occasionally plays piano.
Last summer, she took part in a mission trip to Guatemala, where she helped build a house for a family in need.
“It was incredible,” she said. “The house was probably about as big as this room, but it changed their life and that was amazing to see.”
Penn, the daughter of Jeremiah and Siri, says she’d like to pursue a career in medicine.
“I know I want to go to college; I just don’t know where yet. But I hope to go into the medical field,” she said. “I think it’d be cool to either be a small-town physician or family-medicine doctor, or go with an organization like Doctors Without Borders and go to Third World countries and help like that.”
The teen says she’s thankful for her parents’ support throughout the years.
“My parents always expect me to do my best, but they always help me to do it,” she said. “They provide me help and guidance so it doesn’t seem unattainable but like something I can do.”
In her spare time, Penn says she enjoys reading, mostly fiction and fantasy, and swing dancing with her sister, Kari. She also has two brothers, Josiah and Micah.
The senior offers the following advice to underclassmen: “Stay busy. It’s not for everybody, but for me, the busier I am the easier it is for me to be focused. When I have extra time off, like long weekends, I’ll get all discombobulated and forget to do things. But when I’m busy, I have to set up a time schedule and manage my time. And I get to do more fun things.”