By Deb Euteneuer
Oftentimes we look at our school and see it through the eye of a staff person. This testimony is a tribute to Trevor and his journey at our school. I thank Mary for taking the time to share her story.
My husband, Randy, and I grew up in Brainerd. We were married at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Brainerd. We have three children: Maria, who has been teaching at Assumption Catholic School for the last four years; Nick, who just finished his sophomore year at Bemidji State University; and Trevor, a junior at Brainerd Senior High School.
For our two older children, attending public school went by smoothly. Our boys attended a small elementary school in Brainerd with one classroom for each of the five grade levels. We liked that our sons could play with each other and their friends on the playground each day.
It was ideal for Trevor. When he was two years old he had begun showing very unusual sensory reactions and had trouble communicating. These were signs of “slow auditory processing” and Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the high functioning end of the Autism spectrum. The school worked with us. Trevor was put on an Individual Educational Plan (IEP), and the staff modified their instruction so that he could learn at his level and be successful. He loved going to that school and had a great five years there.
But transferring to a huge middle school with more than 2,000 students was a nightmare for Trevor. He hated going to school. He did not fit in and was singled out and bullied. On many days he would come home and have horrible meltdowns that lasted hours. Finally after crying his heart out and overwhelmed with exhaustion, he would fall asleep.
I was overwhelmed with grief and worry for my son. The situation was affecting our family life. Each day he would ask me why he had to go back to school, because he knew he was going to have a bad day. He had already stopped trusting his teachers, and I was worried that his trust in me would soon be gone, too.
In 2010, while Trevor was in sixth grade, my husband and I decided to transfer him out of the public school. We couldn’t risk waiting any longer for things to get better for our son. My husband, who is not a Catholic, suggested that we take a look at
St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School in Brainerd. We also began talking to Trevor about what he thought of transferring to SFOLS.
I took a tour of the school at their open house during Catholic Schools Week in January. I was most impressed with their small school environment and that they were able to offer many educational opportunities equal to the public school. I liked that that they provided a strong Catholic education and emphasized the importance of the family.
In the spring, we met with the principal of the school, Deb Euteneuer. She led Trevor and me on a tour of the school, which included stopping in and visiting with some of the teachers and students in their classrooms. As we were headed back to our car, Trevor announced that he wanted to go to that school! My mind was made up, too. We enrolled him in May, and I was impressed that his future teachers wanted to learn more about Trevor so that they could modify lessons, assignments and testing to his academic level.
It was a memorable first day of school that fall for Trevor and me. He was so full of excitement about going to St. Francis that he was beaming from ear to ear. For the next two years he always seemed to be in a very happy mood just going to school.
Trevor was calm once more, taking pride in his education and soaking up the school’s Catholic faith-filled environment. Often he would come home excited to talk about an interesting discussion they had in their religion class. Every day wasn’t perfect, and that was OK, because he still felt welcomed and loved. He didn’t doubt that each of his teachers truly cared about their students.
One amazing day, he even made his language arts teacher cry as he was presenting a speech on a very personal topic: autism. He felt comfortable enough to explain what it was like to have Asperger’s Syndrome and how it affects him and the others around him. His teacher told us that as he started expressing more details, the classroom became so quiet that you could have heard a pin drop. Afterward, his classmates wanted to know more about it and how they could help him. It was a big step for Trevor!
This past January he was asked to give a short speech to promote the school during Catholic Schools Week at a Mass at St. Francis Church in Brainerd. He amazed me again by agreeing to compose and present the speech. When Father Tony Wrobelwski introduced him that Sunday, I looked up to see a nervous, but beaming face, ready to promote his beloved school.
He began with:
My name is Trevor Lossow, and I graduated from St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School three years ago in 2012. I went to St. Francis in the seventh and eighth grades and I wished that my parents would have sent me there earlier, because I enjoyed going there each day.
The St. Francis School felt like “heaven” when I went there.
SFOLS does not have a high school, so Trevor returned to the public school once more. Though Trevor was at SFOLS for only two short years, it prepared him for his future by giving him the skills to grow academically and spiritually, at his own pace, yet still challenging him to accomplish more. Many of his insecurities had melted away. He became a more confident young man, advocating for himself. He was comfortable being the
Trevor that God had created.
Trevor still continues to surprise me, for in the ninth grade he decided to go out for the junior varsity soccer team after not playing since fifth grade. He has been “student of the semester” multiple times. He joined the high school concert band and auditioned for and is a member of the Brainerd High School A Cappella Choir. He altar serves every chance he gets at St. Francis Church and just celebrated his confirmation on May 3.
Attending SFOLS has not only affected Trevor in great ways, it has affected me, too. As he was attending classes there, I enjoyed volunteering at the school as a room parent and became a member of the Home and School Association (HASA), chairing the Communications Committee.
I also started substitute teaching at the school. Last year I was hired by the school to teach fifth grade math, become the school librarian and direct the afterschool program each day.
St. Francis of the Lakes School has truly been a blessing. Ordinary words can’t express the gratitude that we feel toward the school.
Deb Euteneuer is principal of St. Francis of the Lakes School.