March 5, 2007

Leaders from Mayer Lutheran High School

By Jenni Sebora

“Preparing the next generation of Christian leaders,” is the mission statement at Mayer Lutheran High School (LHS).

And LHS student sophomore Jordan Dahlke and LHS graduate and United States Air Force Academy cadet Brandon Burfeind are shining examples of leaders, each in his own way.

Jordan is a student with cerebral palsy, who has dealt with and overcome obstacles all of his life. Jordan’s health and physical limitations don’t stop Jordan.

Jordan tells of his father baptizing him in the hospital when he was hooked up to tubes and machines with the uncertainty of Jordan’s survival.

Jordan has not only made it but is an inspiration to his LHS classmates and staff, LHS Principal Kevin Wilaby and math and special services teacher Kathy Meier noted.

“Jordan is an inspiration,” Wilaby said and Meier agreed. “He is a leader,” Meier said.

Having undergone seven surgeries in his 15-year life, Jordan has just undergone his eighth surgery.

In February, Jordan had reconstructive surgery on his legs to help improve his gait, and as Jordan put it “to be able to walk and not fall over and not be confined to a wheelchair.” Jordan ambulates with the assistance of a crutch.

All of these surgeries have not stopped and will not stop Jordan. He is a busy young man.

Jordan takes a full load of classes and has managed to earn the Student of the Month award twice thus far in his LHS school career.

Jordan has earned an LHS letterman’s jacket by being the baseball team’s announcer – a job which Jordan enjoys and has fun with.

“I have nicknames for all the players,” Jordan said with his great sense of humor.

Jordan doesn’t plan on giving this job up. During his surgery recovery phase, Jordan plans on being there to announce the games. There are plans to make adaptations so Jordan can announce from the ground level, Meier noted.

After his surgery and some recovery at home, Jordan will most likely return to school for the last six to eight weeks of this school year.

Even though Jordan will be at home for awhile recovering from surgery, he will still be receiving an education. As the special services teacher, Meier will travel to Jordan’s home weekly to tutor him while he is recovering.

Most of Jordan’s class schedule consists of classes in regular education with some modifications and accommodations, such as a peer helper taking notes or the use of a laptop for written assignments. Peer helpers also assist Jordan with such tasks as carrying his book bag.

In a physical education class, the teacher worked with Jordan to individualize his program, setting up an exercise regime in the weight room that works for Jordan.

Jordan also receives support from the learning lab that Meier is in charge of. Other students who need extra support also utilize the learning lab as well.

These services are supported through Lutheran Special Education Ministries (LSEM). Meier, who has a special education teaching licensure, also receives ongoing support, resources, information, and training through LSEM.

“Lutheran Education Ministries has been enabling children with special learning needs to receive a Christian education since 1973,” Meier reiterated.

Meier also explained that LHS also receives support and services from the Watertown-Mayer Public School system for special education services, such as conducting child finds and testing students for services.

At the start of each school year, Meier meets with Jordan’s parents, Brian and Mary Dahlke, to discuss Jordan’s class schedule and plan for the year.

Jordan, who lives in Chaska with his parents and older brother, attended Chaska Elementary and St. John’s parochial school in Chaska prior to coming to LHS. Jordan says LHS is a good fit for him.

“It’s not too big,” Jordan said, also adding that he knew a lot of the students because his brother also attended LHS.

One can say LHS is a rich family tradition for Jordan’s family. Jordan’s older brother, Aaron, is a 2006 LHS graduate as well as their dad.

Receiving a Christian education is important to Jordan and his family and is central to their family’s decision in choosing LHS.

Jordan is also a go-getter out of the school environment as well. Jordan has participated in the Miracles for Mitch triathlon, which raises money for cancer patients.

Jordan has not only participated in this event, he has been the top fundraiser, having raised $1,200 the first year of his participation, $5,000 the next, and last year, he raised $9000 in pledges.

Air Force cadet

Brandon Burfeind, a 2006 LHS graduate, also exemplifies the qualities of leadership.

After graduating from LHS, Brandon entered the United States Air Force Academy and is currently a cadet at this prestigious academy. He was awarded a four-year award of $87,500 per year.

The academy admission process includes several steps. After an initial application submission, interviews by Senator Norm Coleman and the United States Air Force Academy, and the passage of a physical and a physical fitness test, Brandon received the Academy nomination by Senator Coleman.

To receive such an elite nomination, Brandon exemplified leadership qualities both in school and out of school.

Among Brandon’s accomplishments at LHS were: National Honor Society member, honor roll, mission trip member, and student leadership award.

Wilaby also noted that Brandon was also very active in his community, especially through his church.

And Brandon says that LHS did an excellent job of preparing him.

“Mayer Lutheran did an excellent job of preparing me for the vigorous academic program at the United States Air Force Academy, especially in the area of advanced math,” Brandon said.

“The college writing preparation I received at Mayer Lutheran was crucial to my success as a freshman at the United States Air Force Academy,” he said.

Brandon is the son of Craig and Laurie Burfeind of Chanhassen.

These two young men, Jordan and Brandon, both are leaders in and out of the classroom.

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