I’m a Tulsa Kid: Chris Loerke
Be the change you want to see in the world. That is exactly what Chris Loerke, a recent graduate of Union High School, set out to do when he founded Union’s Mesh program. Loerke was recognized as the 2016 Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy by the Association of Fundraising Professionals for his work and efforts advocating for students with disabilities.
TK: What is Mesh?
Chris: Mesh is a program founded by teens that works to bridge the social gap between students with and without disabilities through education and social interaction. Mesh provides opportunities for these two groups to hang out and form friendships that would typically not be made. At Union, Mesh met every Tuesday during lunch and our students participated in games and activities and made friends that will last a lifetime.
TK: How did you come up with the idea for Mesh? What inspired you?
Chris: I had the opportunity to work with 25 outstanding Tulsa teens in the Youth Philanthropy Initiative when creating Mesh. Personally, I fell in love with people who have disabilities in the sixth grade. A boy in my class had disabilities and students tended to pick on him because he was different. I knew it was wrong to pick on someone just because they are different so I started standing up for him. He is now one my best friends today! It then became my mission for barriers to be broken and for all students to understand the differences and strengths of people with disabilities.
TK: What have you learned while being part of the Mesh program?
Chris: The biggest lesson I have learned is that people without disabilities don’t want to be separated from people with disabilities; they just don’t have opportunities.
TK: Who do you look up to? Who are your role models?
Chris: All my life, my parents and sisters have taught me to love others unconditionally. My Leadership advisor in high school, Philippa Kelly, and high school math teacher, Rebecka Peterson, taught me to always think about people’s circumstances and to find good in every situation and person. Lastly, Lynn Schusterman, Adam Seaman, and Terrie Shipley of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Youth Philanthropy Initiative taught me that if I am passionate about something, I should give all I have to make a difference.
TK: What advice do you have for other young philanthropists?
Chris: Never lose your passion for what you are doing. There will be times that you are rejected and you feel like you are making no progress. However, you need to remember that with persistence and passion, you can change the world.
TK: What is something that you would like to see changed in society? And how would you like to see this changed?
Chris: I am so excited with all of the progress Mesh is making, but I know it has so much more potential. I look forward to the day that every person with disabilities is socially integrated into society. I hope someday people will look past differences and find beauty in each other’s strengths.
TK: What other hobbies do you have?
Chris: In high school I served as Student Council President and helped plan fun events, dances and service projects. I am a marathon runner and am involved in the President’s Leadership Class and Sooner Freshman Council at the University of Oklahoma. I am actively involved with my church, Asbury United Methodist.
TK: What are your plans and goals for the future?
Chris: I hope to go to medical school after I graduate from OU and would like to be either a pediatric oncologist (doctor for kids with cancer) or developmental pediatrician (doctor for kids with special needs).
Fun Facts about Chris Loerke: I am a marathon runner, can solve a Rubik’s Cube while hula hooping, and love OU football!