Halle Berner isn’t really cognizant of her leadership — it's just the way she is.
The Lutheran High Northeast senior has spent the past several years growing in her faith, academics and activities while being a role model to others inside and outside the school.
Berner constantly leads by example in her involvement with Our Savior Lutheran Church, said Christine Ekberg, the church’s director of family life.
She serves as a senior representative for the church’s youth ministry, helps record services every Sunday and assists with service events through her weekly youth group.
“A lot of the younger kids look up to her. I've always called her kind of the quiet leader,” Ekberg said. “She's not your extrovert running around. She has a genuine heart — she goes to talk to the new kid or is always willing to help out.”
Berner has competed in volleyball for the past four years at Lutheran High. She was part of this season’s state champion team. She also participated in track and field, which is her favorite sport.
She was involved in Future Business Leaders of America, was vice president of the National Honor Society and also played a role on the student council.
One of her favorite memories occurred after her sophomore year, when she participated in a youth leadership group, Leaders in Training, and helped host its first START Summit. She, along with 20 others from Stanton, Battle Creek, Madison, Pierce and Norfolk Public Schools, created the all-day workshop to help connect students.
“That really grew my communication skills and got me out of my comfort zone,” Berner said. “I was able to talk to people easier.”
Berner said she became even more connected with her faith after attending the 2019 Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod National Youth Gathering in Minneapolis. The event is hosted every three years and allows people to learn about the Christian faith and their Lutheran identity.
“There were probably thousands of high school students there — we filled the Vikings’ stadium,” she said.
Berner’s leadership was one reason why she was selected as Norfolk Noon Kiwanis’ Church Youth of the Year.
“She just does a great job of finding that balance of her faith, school and activities. So many kids give up on that part,” Ekberg said. “When things get busy, they push church away. But she didn't do that, she made it a priority.”
Berner said she plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the fall to major in nursing. She hopes to stay in Lincoln for nursing school and specialize in pediatric oncology.
Berner was exposed to the medical world at a young age when she started to deal with severe stomach problems, she said.
After years of surgeries and testing, she was eventually diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). The condition is caused by the deficiency of the exocrine pancreatic enzymes, resulting in the inability to digest food properly.
Dealing with a chronic condition through school hasn’t been an easy task. Berner said it’s often been a barrier in class or while at sports practices. She has to manage her diet, and she started taking daily medication her junior year to manage symptoms.
“I think it really made me want to go into the medical field,” she said. “Just being around that kind of stuff, seeing what it’s like to experience the pain — I don’t want other people to experience the same.”
Berner wants to specialize in pediatric oncology because of her family’s history of cancer. When a family member died of cancer in 2019, the shock was enough to make her want to help other children who are diagnosed.
“I always knew I wanted to do something with kids,” she said. “But that’s when I knew I wanted to help kids fight for their lives.”
Berner said she’s excited to graduate from Lutheran High on Sunday. But she will miss the people she’s grown used to over the past four years.
“At Lutheran High, there’s not many very people, so we are like a little family that you grow and get really close with,” she said. “I will definitely miss the people — there have been a lot of people who have impacted me.”