When Cadet Chris Bergman and his parents traveled from their home in Chicago, Illinois to Salina, Kansas to visit the St. John’s campus, there was only one member of the family that needed to be convinced that enrollment in St. John’s was the best decision for Chris: his mom, Tasha.
“When I came to St. John’s for the first time, I just fell in love with it,” says Chris. “But Mom was heartbroken at the thought of me leaving home. I pulled my dad aside and asked him to please help me convince her to let me go.”
Today, just a year and a half later, Tasha recalls the emotions she felt when she agreed to let Chris go.
“It was tearing me to shreds that I wasn’t going to be able to see my son every day, but then his dad said something to me that stuck. He said, ‘We need to look at what’s best for our son and make choices for him that will put him on the path to success.’”
Striving for Greatness
Chris was always an academically gifted and organized student who was doing well at his Catholic school in Chicago. Still, Chris yearned for more opportunities and his parents yearned to give him every possibility to reach his full potential.
“My dad went to West Point,” says Chris. “I was always fascinated with the military. I was a good student, but I felt like I wanted more structure.”
“Chris’ grades were good, and he was a good student,” recalls Tasha. “It’s not that he was struggling in that environment, but Chris always likes to do better than just fine. Mediocre is not enough for him. We knew St. John’s would give Chris an even bigger boost in his grades, that he’d benefit from the structure, and that St. John’s would help him develop his character and leadership qualities.”
Learning to Lead at the Highest Level
Now in his senior year at St. John’s, Chris has fulfilled his goals and his parents’ hopes. He has excelled academically at St. John’s and has learned to become the type of leader Tasha and Jeff always knew he could be.
“To me, leadership is a way to move people in a direction that is positive,” says Chris. “Leading is not yelling. I learned the hard way that yelling doesn’t work. It’s finding how you can get a task done together, and it’s about adapting when you make a mistake. It’s about moving forward and just not sitting there. Leadership is to better not just myself but those around me. It’s not about me.”
The leadership at St. John’s has recognized Chris’ potential as well and selected him to serve as S1, the Personnel Officer, for the 131st Corps of Cadets.
“For me, serving as the Personnel Officer is a big opportunity to learn better leadership skills that will help me achieve my goals for after I graduate,” says Chris with both pride and humility in his voice. “It will allow me to help other cadets and make an impact on their lives. That’s why I wanted to earn the position. I like seeing people progress.”
In his role as S1, Chris serves as the master of ceremonies for most campus events. He also processes promotion orders, and manages cadet records. Chris, who has always been well-organized, is embracing the opportunity to help improve the school’s promotional process and enhance the cadet records organizational system, but Tasha believes what truly makes Chris well suited for the position of Personnel Officer is his natural public speaking ability.
“Chris speaks very well in front of others,” said Tasha. “He has a natural ability for public speaking.”
Not only have Tasha and Jeff noticed Chris defining his individual sense of leadership during his time at St. John’s, but they have also seen him mature in ways they were not expecting.
“Chris could be a little reactionary at times, but now he’s a lot more mature,” says Jeff. “He is much more measured and thoughtful about things.”
Tasha agrees, adding, “He’s thinking and processing things more. He’s trying to stop, understand, and make better decisions and that’s what we want for our kids. To teach them how to make the right decisions.”
Learning to Let Go
As for Tasha, while she misses Chris every day, she is proud of the man he is becoming and has fully embraced her role within the St. John’s family, now serving as the President of the school’s Parent’s Association.
“It was so hard for me to let Chris go, but when you take yourself out of it, you realize you want your child to have a caring heart and care about others. You want him to want to be successful and to do the right things, so when you have the opportunity to send him to a great school where his innate qualities can be enhanced and polished, why would you not give that to him?”
Jeff adds, “It was easy as parents to immediately think that we didn’t want our son to leave home, but we had to stop thinking about what was best for us and think about what was best for Chris.”
Not only have Tasha and Jeff embraced Chris’ enrollment at St. John’s, but they have also enrolled their youngest son, Nick, at St. John’s so that he too will benefit from everything the school has to offer.
“I’m glad that they are together at St. John’s because even though they are different, there is a unique bond that siblings have and it only gets better as we get older,” said Tasha. “And Nick is charting his own path. He’s not just thought of as Chris’ little brother.”
As the Bergman Family looks toward the future, they all have a sense of confidence that Chris is well poised to meet his highest potential.
“I’m going to go to college and major in business administration and organizational behavior with a minor in criminal justice with an ROTC scholarship,” says Chris. “Then I’m going to work as a police officer and then move to the federal level and work in the FBI.”
“Anyone whose child will be going away to college in a year feels nervous,” says Jeff, “But since Chris has already lived away from home, and since he’s much more mature, and measured, and self-sufficient now, it eases the nervousness we feel thinking about him going away to college.”
“Ultimately, we want our kids to be happy and successful in whatever they decide to do,” adds Tasha. “We just couldn’t be prouder of our son.”