A Burning Passion

It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say Max Bjerke grew up at The Franciscan School.

“Most of my life so far has been spent at TFS – from kindergarten through eighth grade and at St. Francis preschool before that,” says Bjerke. “I had the privilege of being a part of the TFS Class of 2020 and now attend high school at Iron Academy, an all-male Christian school that – like TFS – focuses on leadership, self-discipline and service.”

Bjerke has the opportunity to put those characteristics on display not only within school walls, but also in the community. In addition to his rigorous school work, Bjerke serves as a volunteer firefighter.

“I became interested in firefighting when my parents and I went to a Public Safety Day presentation at Leesville Road High School in September of 2019. I started training the following Thursday and knew that this job was for me,” he remembers.

Bjerke believes his time at TFS prepared him for firefighting by teaching him how to serve the community and what it means to help those in need. “The service projects we would participate in really made me cognizant of the dangers and struggles that people face in their everyday lives,” he says.

There were many teachers at TFS who helped shape Bjerke not only as a student, but as a person.

“Mrs. Burdett created a lot of wonderful memories in first grade and impacted my life greatly with her kindness and Mrs. LaPorte, a positive and loving teacher, was influential in third grade by making class fun – yet disciplined – and showing me what it means to be humble,” Bjerke says. “Mrs. Moser patiently guided and encouraged me in science class during eighth grade by teaching me effective study habits that I’m still using today, and Mr. Tenace helped me to grow in my relationship with God. He even inspired my interest in possibly joining the military – something that I previously could not imagine myself doing.”

Mr. Shawn Tenace, one of the TFS Middle School religion teachers, also has fond memories of Max as a student.

“Max was the fastest cross country athlete in middle school throughout his time at TFS. He was feared in PE because of his speed, strength, agility and skill, and he was the hardest working player on the basketball court,” Tenace remembers. “However, what stands out the most is that while he was humble and quiet, he outworked everyone else on the sporting field.”

 Middle School can be rough, and teenagers sometimes push boundaries, but not Max,” Tenace continues. “He was always respectful to his teachers, classmates, and environment, but – most importantly – he was reverent, respecting God, prayer and worship.”

Bjerke has taken away a lot from his time at TFS, such as the importance of serving others with joy and love, but one of those most important to him is the strong foundation of faith.

“One key thing I learned and will carry with me for the rest of my life is that you should never be afraid to admit your love for Jesus,” he says. “If someone asks you if you are a Christian or Catholic, you should not answer ‘yes’ with embarrassment or shyness, but instead answer with pride because loving the Lord is something to be proud of.”