Lincoln High senior defies expectations and inspires peers

Every time Zion walks into Lincoln High School’s weight room, he showcases the type of internal and external strength it takes to be a leader.
Zion has overcome multiple obstacles to become a role model of determination and perseverance. He lost his central vision in both eyes in fourth grade and experienced a lack of confidence when he entered high school. Now, the senior will play football at Peru State College this fall and is planning to pursue a career in physical therapy.

LHS Principal Mark Larson said Zion has written a positive story throughout his Lincoln Public Schools experience. He has used his encouraging personality to make a big difference in many lives.
“Zion is a great kid,” Larson said. “He has overcome his disability to not only be successful and get his diploma, but Zion has become involved in sports and clubs and has been an important part of our school community.”
Dan Beckmann teaches physical education and coaches football at Lincoln High. He first met Zion four years ago at an introductory weight room workout for incoming freshmen. He said Zion’s classmates look up to him because of his work ethic and attitude.
“His leadership down there is phenomenal and it really sets him apart,” Beckmann said. “When we have a lot of students down there, it’s easy to be a follower and do what other people are doing. He goes in and he sets the tone in regards to what he knows needs to get done, and he’ll get other people to follow him. It’s really neat to see there.”

Zion said his father taught him about the importance of setting a good example for others.
“I always like helping people, and that’s why I tried to step into being a leader,” Zion said. “I really like it. I didn’t like being a follower.”
Ko Inamura, a teacher of the visually impaired at LPS, has worked with Zion for seven years. Zion discovered in elementary school that he had a rare genetic eye condition called Stargardt disease. The disease causes fatty material to build up on the macula – the small part of the retina needed for sharp, central vision – and results in central vision loss. There is no treatment currently available.

Inamura said it has been inspiring to watch Zion soar into a successful spotlight in athletics. He earned All-City honors this past fall for his work on the football field, and he was a mainstay for the Links at track and field meets this spring. He ran on a medal-winning 1,600-meter relay team and competed in both the 200 and 400 meters.
“I was impressed with his tenacity and perseverance in sports and his belief in himself for making tangible results out of his effort in sports,” Inamura said. “Stargardt disease is not a minor eye disease. With that kind of eye condition, he must have received countless discouragement – for pursuing a serious dream in sports – implicitly and explicitly from many others. He must have had a lot of internal struggle about it as well.
“But Zion has never become negative or remorseful about his eye condition. He just kept training for the sports he is in – football and track and field. And Zion did leave good results in both.”

Zion has accomplished the same feats in the classroom. Patients with central vision loss have difficulty reading small letters on a computer screen or in a book. Inamura spent many hours helping Zion learn different technologies that would allow him to access information. He continued to work hard and was able to improve his grades year after year.
“In his freshman year, Zion required lots of adults’ help – mine and other teachers at LHS – to be successful in his classes,” Inamura said. “By his senior year however, it appeared to me that Zion had found the way to deal with his unique hardship in learning. Now Zion does his academic work independently without much help from adults. This is another aspect of Zion I am very proud of.”

Ask Zion what he feels he has overcome in high school, and the topic of Stargardt disease doesn’t come up. Instead, he says he is most proud of developing emotional strength.
“I’d say building more confidence and overcoming the fear of messing up and failing,” Zion said. “I used to be, when the team would lose or I would lose a race, I’d get upset. I remember sophomore year every game that we lost, I cried. I was a sore loser. I’ve started to get away from that. That’s the biggest thing, I would say.”

Beckmann said that confidence is one reason why Zion will continue to showcase strength throughout his life. He said future patients in Zion’s physical therapy office would benefit from the leadership skills he acquired at Lincoln High.
“If students take a weight training class and want to be physically fit for the rest of their lives, that’s awesome, and then to go ahead and have someone want to pursue a career in it, that’s next-level stuff,” Beckmann said. “Having him talk to me about this path that he wants to do, and have him say that he likes being in the weight room working with students, that’s amazing.

“To see someone like Zion have that kind of passion for helping others, and for it to be physical therapy, it’s a neat feeling.”

Congratulations, Zion!
We wish you the best in your future endeavors.
We are thankful our educators could help you Launch at LPS!

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Published: May 17, 2024, Updated: May 17, 2024

Lincoln High senior Zion is preparing to run a successful race in all of his endeavors in life. Zion has overcome obstacles to become a role model for many students on campus. He will attend Peru State College this fall and is planning to become a physical therapist.