Barker High School student Jordan Mitchell always thought of himself as a leader. The 20-year-old isn’t afraid to be weird or loud to get others to do the right thing. But, a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease his freshman year at Central Valley High School was a setback for him in terms of school, basketball, friends and a normal life.
When he was diagnosed, Mitchell spent approximately three weeks in the hospital, and his mother, Cheryl, and brother, Hayden, were by his side. His father, Marty, traveled for work and to pay for the medical costs. “I was angry at everything. They were so helpful. If I didn’t have them, I don’t know what I’d do,” Mitchell said. When he left the hospital, along with the pain of his chronic medical condition, fear and anxiety set in, and Mitchell found sanctuary at home.
“When your mental game is not there, everything is going to seem a hundred times worse,” he said. “I got sick, and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t leave the house.”
Mitchell dropped out of CV halfway through his freshman year because of ongoing abdominal pain and bleeding. “It kept me down a lot. It drained me. Looking back, it hurt, but I wasn’t really willing to try,” he said.
In December 2007, Mitchell enrolled at Barker, taking one class at a time. He could stop by the school, pick up his homework and meet with his adviser and then go home. Eventually, Mitchell became a full-time student, and after 4 ½ years as a Barker student, he’s earned the respect of the other students and the teachers. Mitchell’s counselor, Matt Van Sickle, said Mitchell never says enough good things about himself. “Whatever he says, multiply it,” he said. Mitchell’s mentor and physical education teacher, John Griffiths, said, “You’ve got a good one there.”
The confidence that Barker has restored in Mitchell has allowed him to overcome his disease. Although Crohn’s cannot be cured, it can be controlled. Mitchell gives himself a shot every two weeks to prevent symptoms. His life is back to normal; he plays basketball every day, he works at Chuck E. Cheese in Spokane Valley, completed his high school graduation requirements at the end of April and in the fall will begin classes at Spokane Falls Community College, working toward a health fitness technician degree. Mitchell said he would like to find a job as a personal trainer after he graduates from SFCC. If not, he’ll transfer to Gonzaga, where he’d consider a degree in sports management. “My dream job would be to coach basketball, but there’s no way that that could be the job; it’ll just be a hobby,” he said.
Mitchell said what he’s had to go through and coming to Barker has made him a stronger person.
“You have to rise above; I think I’ve done that,” he said. “Without my family and friends and the Barker community, I wouldn’t be graduating; I wouldn’t be the person I am now. I wouldn’t have the direction and support in life that I have,” Mitchell said.