Choctaw Jordan Kern earns Gates Millennium along with full scholarship to Duke University

Kern and Dr. Michael West of the Creek Nation Indian Health Clinic. Kern shadowed Dr. West during the summer, solidifying his interests in medicine.

Kern and Dr. Michael West of the Creek Nation Indian Health Clinic. Kern shadowed Dr. West during the summer, solidifying his interests in medicine.

DURANT, OKLAHOMA — Jordan Kern (Choctaw), a student of Henryetta High School, has recently been accepted to Duke University’s class of 2018, where he will begin his education in the fall.

“…I know that our generation of students will shatter stereotypes,” said Kern as he demonstrated his confidence in not only himself, but other Native students. “I want to be an example for current Choctaw students, proof that anyone can accomplish their goals.”

He will receive a full financial scholarship provided by Duke, valued at just over $240,00. On top of that, Kern has also been named a Gates Millennium Scholar which funds any portion of his undergraduate degree not covered by Duke as well as the cost of his graduate studies through a doctoral degree. He will also

The combination of these scholarships will provide the funding needed to achieve his educational goals, which is integral to his plans of entering the medical field. Though Kern’s story is only just beginning, his past actions and accomplishments serve as an example for students of small town beginnings, aspiring to compete on a large scale.

Growing up in Henryetta, Kern attended Henryetta High School where he will graduate as the valedictorian with 64 college credit hours from Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology. In addition to his academic success, he was also heavily involved in extracurricular activities and volunteer work. His most notable volunteer accomplishment is an extension of his interest in the medical field. Kern began the Friends of Benton organization, in which he and his fellow volunteers would procure medical equipment for those who needed it, but could not afford to purchase. Friends of Benton has served along with other organizations such as Saint Francis Children’s Hospital and Camp Barnabas Special Needs Summer Camp with the goal of improving the lives of special needs children.

Kern’s younger brother, and namesake to Friends of Benton, Benton Kern, was born with chromosome two deletion yet surpassed medical life expectancies, serves as Jordan’s inspiration to pursue a career in pediatrics. “He just sparked a passion,” Jordan said as he described how his relationship with his brother inspired him and effected his outlook on the future. Kindling the fire lit by Benton, Jordan served as a volunteer at Camp Barnabas where he was charged with the care of a youth with cerebral palsy. This solidified his future plans in pediatrics. “I love caring for kids,” Jordan exclaimed.

To prepare for his future education, Kern used his time in the Creek Nation summer work program to shadow the doctor who had cared for Benton in the past – Dr. Michael West of the Creek Nation Health Clinic. While learning from Dr. West, Kern was able to get a firsthand experience of what his future will hold. “He really took me under his wing,” Kern said proudly

“I look forward to seeing what he does in medicine,” stated Dr. West, as he spoke of Kern’s notable scholarships and bright future. West went on to mention that he had not seen a student quite like Kern during his career and was impressed with his accomplishments. Along with Dr. West, Kern was also highly encouraged by his parents, to whom he attributes his drive and determination. “They helped me to find college preparatory programs and motivated me to strive for excellence,” Kern stated. He spoke of how is parents’ continual support of his aspirations, no matter how high he aimed. “My parents molded me into who I am today.”

With a direction for his life decided, Kern was determined to find a way to make it happen. Overcoming obstacles has been something with which he had experience. Along with assisting his family in the hardships accompanying Benton’s medical condition, Kern had also suffered nerve damage from a football injury his freshman year. Before the injury he had planned to attend a junior college with an athletic scholarship, but the damage had forced him to physical therapy throughout his high school career and a change in higher education plans.

“No matter how hard you are knocked down, you can always get back up,” Kern declared as he spoke of overcoming difficulties associated with his setback. By his senior year, he had surpassed expectations to become a team captain on his football team and participant in multiple sports.

It was this same determined spirit that led him to the Gates Millennium Scholarship. Kern became involved with the Choctaw Nation Scholarship Advisement Program (SAP) which he cites as a substantial asset to his academic success.  “Beginning my freshman year, SAP opened me up to a new world of education. The program proved that no matter who I was or where I came from, I could achieve greatness in my academic career,” stated Kern. “I had only dreamed of attending a college with such prestige as Duke University, but SAP made my dreams into a reality.”

Utilizing features of SAP such as access to College Horizons and the annual Ivy League & Friends event, Kern was able to make connections with admissions councilors and other students. This helped him realize all the opportunities he had above and beyond his local options. “Before finding SAP, I was another football player who hoped to attend a junior college on an athletic scholarship,” stated Kern.

“Jordan is an outstanding example of the potential found within our Choctaw students,” stated SAP Director Jo McDaniel, who has witnessed Kern partake in many of the aspects of the program. “We wish him the best and are humbled to have played a part in his outstanding journey,” continued McDaniel.

With new doors opened, Kern took on the most challenging courses available, became involved in a large amount of volunteer work and began scholarship applications. “It was the toughest application I have ever completed,” stated Kern as he spoke of the Millennium Scholarship application. During the process, he was required to complete seven different essays. Not able to fully convey his passion and determination in those seven essays, Kern completed eight.  “The work you put into the application, you get back.”

Kern had accepted his position into Duke before he was awarded the Gates Scholarship. “The main thing that pushed me to apply to Duke University was the students.  Everyone on campus has great spirit,” he stated. “I knew from the moment I stepped on campus that I had found the place I wanted to be.”

During his time at Duke, Kern plans to continue his effort with Friends of Benton by servicing at the Duke Hospital. Involvement in the multicultural center also tops his list of activities once he arrives in the fall. Spreading Native culture to other students is also an aspect of his enrollment he eargerly anticipates.

Through Kern’s rise to such notable academic success, many lessons have been learned. He has made it a priority to spread the motivation and encouragement by speaking to groups of underclassmen at local organizations.

“My biggest advice to fellow native students is to never let outside views determine who you are. I recently read an article that stated only 13 percent of Native Americans graduate from college. I laughed because I will be one of those numbers. I laughed because I know that our generation of students will shatter stereotype,” said Kern as he demonstrated his confidence in not only himself, but other Native students. “I want to be an example for current Choctaw students – proof that anyone can accomplish their goals.”

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