Lutheran High Northeast senior Ben Gebhardt is one of many area students who saw their senior year experience cut short, but he is able to look back on many accomplishments, experiences and challenges in and out of the classroom.
Gebhardt, the son of Leon and Kathy Gebhardt of Norfolk, said his senior year has been a challenging year. Earlier this year, one of his older brothers had to have heart surgery, but the surgery went well and he has been recovering.
“It was a challenging time for our family,” he said. “But he’s doing OK now. God has gotten him through it.”
But then shortly after that, the pandemic hit and classes moved online for the rest of the year. Gebhardt said it was a disappointment to miss out on the last days of senior year and his final golf season.
“It’s been a tough time,” he said. “I was really looking forward to golf season and the last days of the year. But I know it’s important to stay inside right now.”
In addition to being one of three seniors on the golf team, he was also a member of the football and basketball teams, which he said were probably his favorite times in high school.
“I enjoyed practice and always trying to be better for my team and coaches,” he said.
He also was involved in numerous activities outside of sports. He said one of the most important was the National Honor Society, which has a rigorous nomination and selection process.
“It meant a lot to me to be recognized as a leader in the community,” Gebhardt said.
One of the defining experiences of his time at Luther High Northeast was when he went to Malawi in 2018.
He found out about the mission trip from his father, an elder at Christ Lutheran, and felt it was a sign from God that he needed to go.
Gebhardt and the other parishioners went to the eastern African country to teach the Bible, It was an eye-opening experience when he and his fellow parishioners met the people of Malawi.
“We just fell in love with the people there,” Gebhardt said. “Their lives are a lot different from ours, and they don’t have the kinds of things we have. But they have faith and so much joy.”
After returning, the Gebhardt family wanted to continue being involved in the lives of the Malawians. So when two students from Malawi needed a host family to attend school in Norfolk, the family jumped at the opportunity.
“We had two bedrooms that weren’t being used anymore, so it worked out pretty well,” Gebhardt said.
Even after they moved out of his house, the students are still attending school in Norfolk, and they keep in touch with the family, Gebhardt said.
Besides the trip to Malawi, Gebhardt stays involved throughout the community, through volunteering with organizations such as Orphan Grain Train and Meals on Wheels. He is also an usher trumpet player at Christ Lutheran.
“My faith is a very important part of life and to my family,” he said.
After graduating this summer, Gebhardt will be attending the University of Kansas in Lawrence next fall as an undeclared major.
He said Lutheran High Northeast has prepared him for life after high school.
“I think they have tough classes and prepare you well for college,” he said. “It’s a small school so teachers are able to be a big part of your life.”
He also said that he has formed many good relationships at school.
“I’ve formed a lot of good relationships that have played a big role in my life,” Gebhardt said.