When he's not making a football, basketball or baseball fly through the air, 17-year-old Jaden Mitzel dreams about soaring through the air, above the clouds, in the cockpit of an airplane.
The senior at Shiloh Christian School in Bismarck is taking steps to obtain his private pilot license, and he's mapping out a career path in aviation.
“When I was a little kid, I always looked up to the sky and was like, 'Man, I want to be an astronaut,'” he said. “But then my mom went crazy and was like, 'You don't want to go up there. That's dangerous.' So I was like, 'All right, I'll be a pilot.'”
In addition to taking online aviation classes, the Bismarck native is enrolled in private flying lessons with local pilot Justin Voller, whom Mitzel refers to as “a really key role model.”
Mitzel, the son of Matt and Sara Mitzel, has been selected as this week's Teen of the Week, thanks, in part, to a letter of recommendation written by Ian Grande, Shiloh's assistant principal and English teacher.
“When Jaden comes up against an academic obstacle, he doesn't run from it, he runs right through it,” Grande wrote. “It would be easy to chalk up his athletic ability or academic success to natural talent, but that would discount the blood, sweat and tears that he puts into every challenge that he faces.”
Thirty-two high school seniors will be recognized as Teen of the Week with a Tribune write-up by spring, at which time a Teen of the Year will be selected from the weekly winners to receive a $5,000 scholarship sponsored by MDU Resources Group.
While Mitzel is undecided about where he'll attend college or what he'll major in, the football quarterback is sure of this: He wants to play sports at the collegiate level.
“I really enjoy sports,” he said. “With other kids, it could be chess or politics, but for me it's sports. It helps my body get going, and I just have a lot of fun during it.”
Team captain of Shiloh's football, basketball and baseball teams, the athlete's also involved in track and field. He was chosen to be a leader by his teammates.
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“It's awesome having them trust in you and know who you are,” he said. “It's an honor, but you've got to take that honor seriously because you've got to be a good role model. Those young guys look up to you.”
Throughout high school, you've maintained a 3.8 GPA. What is the importance of good grades?
If you're going to have all F's, nobody's going to accept you in their college. Nobody's going to want to look at you. But if you have good grades, a good ACT (college admissions test) score, they look more into you and look into your character.
You're involved in Shiloh's TNT Mentoring program, in which upperclassmen are paired with elementary students to provide additional support during the school year. What are your thoughts on the program?
It's a big thing for those little kids. Obviously the little kids look up to you … right away they're going to be shy and not feel too accepted, but after the first couple of weeks they look up to you. If you accidentally miss a week, they're heartbroken. They feel so sorry for themselves and they're really hurt, but then you try and make it up to them.
What's your favorite pastime?
I really enjoy fishing. It's fun not knowing what you're going to catch. Recently, I was fishing on the Missouri River and I had the pole straight up and then a fish took it all the way down to the rocks. I set the hook so hard that the pole snapped in half and it hit me in the stomach and I was bleeding. I never did get to see what fish was on the other end of the line. It seems like the big ones are always the ones you don't get to see.
What is the one word you would use to describe yourself?
Go-getter. I'm not afraid of asking questions or telling people what I think. I'm not a shy person; I always go and get it.