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Choctaw Student Earns Dual Scholarships to Duke

Jordan Kern, 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. 

Accompanying him on his path is a full financial scholarship provided by Duke, valued at just over $240,000. To make a sweet deal more interesting, Kern has also been named a Gates Millennium Scholar.

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, only selects 1,000 of the exponentially larger number of those who apply. As one of those outstanding few, Kern will be provided with good-through-graduation funding, allowing him to complete his doctorate. 

Kern, a member of the Choctaw Nation and first student of Henryetta High to earn the Gates, plans to peruse a medical degree on his way to becoming a pediatrician. The combination of the Duke and Gates scholarships will allow him to place full focus on those aspirations.

His inclination towards children’s medicine began when his brother, Benton Kern was diagnosed with chromosome two deletion upon his birth. As Benton grew, Kern’s care for his brother and those with conditions similar grew as well. “He just sparked a passion,” Kern stated as he described how his relationship with his brother affected his outlook on the future.

This passion continued into his high school years where he volunteered for organizations such as Camp Barnabas and St. Francis. He also began his own effort known as Friends of Benton, which garnished much involvement from classmates.

Danziger Photography

Kern, second from left, along with his “Friends of Benton” volunteers share their time at the St. Francis Children’s Party.

The volunteer work, in combination with his exceptional academic accolades and extracurriculars were factors that earned his financial awards. Boasting a 4.6 GPA, valedictorian status, active membership to the National Honors Society and involvement in several sports, Kern stood out among contestants for a number of scholarships.

While searching for scholarships, his Gates application made a personal impact. “It was the toughest application I have ever completed,” Kern said. During the process, he was required to complete seven different essays, but not able to fully convey his passion and determination in the allotted amount, Kern completed eight, enabling him to claim the prize. “The work you put into the application, you get back,” he said.

His connection to Duke began with his involvement in the Choctaw Nation Scholarship Advisement Program (SAP), where he was able to meet recruiters personally at events such as Ivy League and Friends and College Horizons.

“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,” Kern said. “I had only dreamed of attending a college with such prestige as Duke University, but SAP made my dreams into a reality.”

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

Coming in contact with many prestigious universities during his collegiate search, Duke stood out among the rest. “The main thing that pushed me to apply to Duke University was the students. Everyone on campus has great spirit,” Kern said. “I knew from the moment I stepped on campus that I had found the place I wanted to be.” 

When he arrives on campus in the fall, Kern plans to continue his work with Friends of Benton—work that consists of procuring medical equipment for special needs children who are unable to afford such items. 

Along with that passion, Kern has taken the charge to encourage more Native American students to pursue higher education.

“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.”