Student Spotlight: Matt Joren

Student Spotlight: Matt Joren
By: Jeff Vorva, Tinley Junction
Click here to read the original article.

Tinley Park senior Matt Joren lists math and science as his favorite subjects.

When it comes to the statistics portion of mathematics, Joren himself is a rarity in two categories in life —one good and one not-so-good.

First the good:

Joren was looking at his phone one day in December and up popped a tweet from Twitter congratulating him on being named an Illinois State Scholar through the Illinois Students Assistance Commission.

Bremen High School District officials estimated that just 10 percent of seniors from 757 schools in the state picked up this honor.

Do the math. 

That’s an exclusive group. 

He is hoping to go to Purdue or Iowa to study computer engineering. 

Now the not-so-good:

During his junior year in high school, he came down with a disease called alopecia areata, which means that his hair was falling out. 

The National Alopecia Areata Foundation estimates that just 2 percent of the nation’s population has this disease.

Do the math. 

That’s an even more exclusive group.

But not as fun as the Illinois Scholar group.

While research shows it’s usually curable in anywhere from months to a year or so, and it’s not a deadly disease such as cancer, alopecia can still be a jolt for a high school student to have his or her hair fall out. 

“It was rough when it first happened,” said Joren, who wore his hair long. “But now I accept it.”

His head was shaved and he wears a black skull cap with a Nike swoosh on the front to school. Around TPHS, it’s pretty much old hat. There’s Matt in his skull cap. No big deal.

But Joren also plays varsity basketball for the Titans, which means people in the south suburbs who haven’t seen him before are introduced to the kid on the court with the skull cap. 

Some look at him and assume it’s a part of his religion.

“I hear that all the time,” he said. 

Some opposing students give him some heckling. During Tinley Park’s 71-54 road victory over Andrew earlier in the season, he heard some razzing from the T-Bolt student section.

“I love it,” he said. “That means they are watching me. We won that game. That’s all I care about. They can talk about it all they want.”

Titans coach D.J. Brown is one of Joren’s biggest fans.

“Sometimes in school, it’s all about the looks and he’s handled it in stride,” Brown said. “It’s never really affected him. It hasn’t affected his personality. He’s taken it in stride and so has the team. They’ve never really questioned it. It’s Matt. None of the kids give him a hard time. That’s helped. 

“Matt’s a self-confident kid and this really didn’t affect him.”

Joren is hoping the cap comes off and the hair grows back in the coming months. 

Meanwhile, he is a part of one of the best Titans teams this decade. The Titans were 11-6 heading into this week and haven’t had a winning campaign since going 15-10 in 2010-11.

“We have a lot of fun and we work really hard,” he said. “We’re senior-heavy and it’s very important 
to us to win games. A lot of the losses last year, the bus rides home were silent. Now there is a lot of laughing and talking. It’s fun. It’s always fun.”

The 6-foot-3 Joren is a role player and averaged 1.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game in his first 10 contests. He was also second on the team in blocking with a 1.4 average per game.

“He’s a great kid and comes from a great family,” Brown said. “I can’t say enough about him. He took a different role that we initially expected this season but he’s done well for us. He’s the biggest supporter we have on the bench. He knows his role. He performs well on the floor. He knows our plays and runs our plays well. He’s a smart kid and that helps on the court.”
Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2019 West Corporation. All rights reserved.