Alumni Stories: Jon Meerdink ’07
You graduated from Sheboygan Christian School in 2007. What have you been up to since then?
A little bit of everything, it seems like. Most people will know me from my time on 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee, but that’s just a small part of the story. Since graduation, I’ve attended two different colleges (both named Northwestern), worked a variety of jobs in radio in Milwaukee and Indiana, worked in publishing and professional development, and now work in marketing. Along the way I got married and my wife and I now live outside Toledo, Ohio with our 15-month-old son.
How did your SCS education prepare you for life beyond our walls?
I think my time at Christian High (it will always be SCCHS to me, apologies to the SCS branch of the family) helped develop the critical thinking and writing skills that have powered my career. Writing will always be an in-demand skill, and Mr. DeJong and Mr. Gesch helped me sharpen that skill and develop my voice. Classes like History Topics and Civics gave me a grounded perspective on world events that I’ve found a lot of people don’t seem to have.
SCS families might already be familiar with your voice from your time on Milwaukee radio. Talk about your experience on the airwaves.
There’s nothing like live radio, especially doing a top-of-the-hour newscast on a “big stick” station like WTMJ. The anticipation builds as the clock ticks down toward showtime, then you hear the sounder and away you go. As soon as you turn on that microphone and you see the “On Air” sign flicker on out of the corner of your eye, anything can happen.
Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s hard to capture what it feels like to be in the big chair delivering the news, but the best analogy I can think of is shooting free throws in a big basketball game. You’re out there on the line all by yourself with everyone watching, and you just have to take the ball and count on your preparation and execution to carry you to the result you want — and you’ve only got one chance to do it.
Delivering a quality newscast is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my career so far, and I’m glad I got the chance to do it.
You produce a podcast called Blue 58 and a website/blog called The Power Sweep that center around the Green Bay Packers. You also write for a number of other Packers themed blogs around the internet. Talk about how this came to be.
This project actually dates back to 2012, when I was working at a radio station in Janesville, Wisconsin. As a reporter, you cover a lot of stories that are either extremely intense (like crime and car accidents) or tediously mundane (like school board or city council meetings). I needed a productive distraction, so I started a Packers blog.
Four years later, I relaunched the site as The Power Sweep with its companion podcast, Blue 58.
How are things going with the blog and podcast today?
I’m quite happy with how it’s grown. Blue 58 is ranked as one of iTunes top 150 football podcasts, regardless of team, but while the download numbers are great, the best part is getting to know other Packers fans. I’ve made a lot of fun connections with Packers fans all over the world, including a few I correspond with regularly in Sweden. Apparently the Scandanavian countries are hotbeds for the Packers diaspora — who knew?
You produce a lot of content both written and spoken. Talk about how SCS prepared you to write, speak, and think.
In my time there, teachers rarely accepted rote answers. In virtually every class, you had to show your work, demonstrating how you arrived at your conclusion. That sounds like a small thing, but it’s not. Our culture today rewards dashed off answers and off the cuff remarks, but that’s no way to become a refined thinker, but my teachers certainly didn’t.
Beyond that, we also just had to write a lot. The best way to get better at anything is to just do it a lot, and our teachers must have thought we needed a lot of writing practice, because I seem to remember a lot of assignments that required sitting down and putting thoughts on paper. I’m grateful for that, because putting in those reps prepared me for almost every job I’ve had in my career, since almost all of them required writing well on deadline.
How was your faith formed in your time at SCS?
I think there’s a predisposition to think of Christian education as just adding Christianity to whatever subject you happen to be learning. English plus Christianity or History plus Christianity or Physics plus Christianity or what have you. But I think all that gets you is secular learning with Sunday School lessons thrown in, appending a moral onto an unrelated story.
My teachers didn’t do that. They emphasized that we needed to learn to “think Christianly” about everything we learned. How should a Christian approach English/History/Physics? What does that worldview yield, and what are the implications?
That mindset showed me that my faith didn’t belong in a box to be unpacked only on Sunday mornings. It needed to inform every aspect of my life.
What would you say was the biggest strength of your experience at SCS?
I wouldn’t have had the chance to gain the perspective I did had I not had close relationships with so many teachers, and I think that’s the biggest strength of my time there. My learning experience was very personal and I had many opportunities to go deeper on subjects than I think I otherwise would have.
What advice would you give to SCS students today?
Prepare yourself to pursue excellence in all that you do, because you never know what skills you’ll develop that will come in handy later — even if you don’t think you’re ever going to use them. My plan when I left high school was to major in business and do something along those lines. I ended up essentially writing for a living. Had I not put the time in (and been forced to put the time in) writing in high school, who knows if I’d have even been able to make that switch?
Or, to put it in football terms, take this lesson from Vince Lombardi: “We will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”
How can the SCS community connect with you?
See my latest writing at ThePowerSweep.com or check out my podcast, Blue 58, wherever you download your favorite shows.