Knowing what we know now about Jon Dicke, a 2011 8th-grade graduate of RCLS, it’s no wonder his earliest memory of RCLS is the school’s annual invitational basketball tournament. Jon, who started preschool at RCLS in 2000 and remained at the school all the way through 8th grade, remembers that both when he was a young boy cheering on his school team and when he was a middle-school player on the team himself, it was always thrilling to see and experience all of the teams and excitement around the tournament. Now, since he is an Exercise Science/pre-medicine student and football player at Southwest Minnesota State University, it is clear that this one-time Bobcat has always been drawn to the thrill of sports. Indeed, basketball is not just his first RCLS memory, but makes up many of the graduate’s “greatest memories” from his first school, where he obtained the immeasurable value of foundation, friendship, and fortitude.
Talent and Teamwork
Jon was the second of Grant and Kris Dicke’s children to attend RCLS, a school his parents chose for Jon and his sister, Liz, because they wanted to “instill a solid Christian foundation in [their kids’] education and life.” A stellar student and a natural athlete, Jon was a star of the RCLS basketball program in his middle-school years. Fourth-grade teacher Mr. Wickre, who served as the school’s Athletic Director when Jon was in middle school, remembers that “Jon was much loved as a player and a person by all teachers and students––even the early childhood kids.” As an older student in the school, Jon was a “gentle giant,” Mr. Wickre remembers, and he invoked cheers such as “Fear the beard!” and “Who’s our hero? Double zero!”––in reference to his early facial hair and the number on the RCLS uniform he wore. Jon surely laughs at such memories, but he remembers with particular fondness his team’s trips to both the state and national tournaments in his 7th- and 8th-grade years. “Those were unforgettable experiences,” he notes, as the RCLS team won against top teams in the country and Jon, a cornerstone of that successful team, was honored to be named to the “All-American team.”
As Jon looks back at his RCLS years, he does not necessarily recount his individual successes, but, instead, is quick to remember those school-wide events that continue to spark great anticipation and excitement in our young students yet today. At RCLS, those events––then, as Jon remembers them, and now––include the competitive Winona Track and Field Day, the school’s annual Hallelujah Carnival and Book Fair, and, of course, that annual Invitational Basketball Tournament, now in its 35th year, to name just a few of the school’s community events. “The invitational tournament [. . .] was always a favorite,” Jon recalls, because “the school would be decorated festively, and we would always have a pep rally leading up to the tournament.” We certainly can appreciate the memory-making power of experiencing such events with childhood friends and a supportive community. Characterized by camaraderie and pride of place, the annual basketball tournament and other special events offer our school community the opportunity to celebrate the ties that bind. Jon says just as much. “Through the school and its activities” and through a shared history with a relatively small, consistent group of peers, he says, “I was able to develop some really great friendships.”
Faith and Fortitude
Friends, most will recognize, have tremendous impact on whom a child becomes, but when Jon considers the influence of RCLS on his academic and athletic successes, he also regards other aspects of his elementary and middle-school experience. In particular, he identifies a foundation of faith as being critical to shaping him to be the man he has become. Weekly chapel services, daily religion class, and truth and faith incorporated into all of his academic and personal life at RCLS worked in partnership with his parents and church to build upon a spiritual foundation that was “greatly strengthened” by the time he entered high school. The young man, once a wide-eyed boy watching the “big kids” play ball, was well-prepared, spiritually and academically, for the transition to the next stage of life and learning. In his view, the education he received at RCLS was “well-rounded,” incorporating faith and academic excellence, and the faculty and staff took a real interest in him and all of their students in their efforts to teach and prepare students for the transition to high school and beyond. As evidenced by the response Jon’s 8th-grade homeroom teacher gave when she found out we were featuring Jon’s story in the blog, his interpretation of his teachers’ care and concern is completely accurate: “I have fond memories of Jon,” Miss Schauer says. “What a great kid!”
That “great kid,” now about to graduate from college, recalls his teachers with equal fondness as he credits their role in shaping what he deems his “work ethic.” When Jon got to high school and faced a rigorous demand of school work and extracurricular activities, he felt he “was able to maintain balance and manage the load well,” in large part because he learned to do so at RCLS. When I asked Miss Schauer how this is so––how does RCLS shape a child’s work ethic?–– she named daily homework and long-term projects as tools for teaching kids about the value of “time management and sustained effort,” but beyond that, she says, “our kids consistently hear the message that we are asking them to do difficult things, but we are not asking them to do something they are not capable of.” In other words, teachers give students plenty of practice and opportunity to develop the perseverance that is inherently part of “work ethic.” RCLS teachers always want to challenge their students, Miss Schauer insists, but at the same time, they “offer support to rise to that challenge.”
The Reward of Work Ethic
Clearly, Jon Dicke was paying attention, for he consistently has risen to whatever challenge is put before him. Equipped with the character and fortitude of one who has learned to manage time and responsibility exceptionally well, Jon was involved in athletics at Century High School, where he developed a passion and talent for the game of football. At the same time, he took a rigorous load of classes, including a full range of science courses, which ultimately helped him determine his college major and career aspirations. His success in high school led him to play football at SMSU, where he has also maintained an academic career––a 4.0 GPA––that he anticipates will lead him to medical school. No matter which way you look at his college pursuits––academic, athletic, community, or otherwise––Jon has clearly been astoundingly successful. His list of activities and accomplishments are rather remarkable. Jon writes,
I am currently working towards my bachelor’s degree at SMSU. Aside from school, I am involved in a variety of extracurricular activities. I recently completed my final season on the SMSU football team. I have twice been named first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American, and this past year, I also received the NSIC Glen Galligan Award for my studies and work on campus and was named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for my volunteer work at Paws and Claws Humane Society. I also serve as the president of the SMSU Exercise Science Club, work in an on-campus research team, and tutor a variety of classes. I was awarded the SMSU Undergraduate Research Conference Library Research Award for my presentation on my capstone research project. Aside from completing my degree and my extracurricular activities, I am studying and preparing for the MCAT and working to gain more medical-related experience.
For all of us at RCLS, Jon’s story is particularly inspiring––because he is one of our own, yes, but also because this is a young man who has managed to do it “all” with such grace and goodness. We note, for example, that one of his awards was earned through service at Paws and Claws Humane Society, a mission Jon adopted from his older sister who has served significantly in this organization, herself. Indeed, Jon’s story is one not just of individual accomplishment, but of the role of foundation, friends, and fortitude in all of life and learning.
As I look around RCLS today, I see ample evidence of all that Jon graciously describes as formative to his success. There is faith––a firm foundation. There is friendship––a supportive community. There is fortitude––classrooms full of kids practicing perseverance and teachers exercising great care and concern.
And, of course, there is basketball––a thrilling tournament that is 35 years strong.
Jon Dicke is an inspiring young man, one who commands the admiration of all who know him. We are ever so proud to call him a Bobcat!
There is so much to admire about this RCLS alumnus. If you want to learn more, see:
And if you want to cheer your Bobcats in the 35th annual RCLS Invitational Basketball Tournament, do join us next weekend, February 15-17, 2019, for the excitement! Go to www.rcls.net/tournament for game times and details. Go Bobcats!