Rebuilding life, trust in people
June graduations mark a new chapter in the lives of high school seniors.
Many will be setting goals — pursuing a post secondary education, entering the job market or serving in the military.
For John Yahnke of Frost, he started working on his goal several months ago — putting his life back together.
“I now weigh 209 and it’s muscle. Lifting weights and bodybuilding keeps you focused,” Yahnke jokes as he steps off a scale and flexes a bicep.
After spending more than 110 days in Faribault County Jail and losing 30 pounds, the 18-year-old was sentenced last November after being convicted of possessing explosive components with the intent to make a bomb.
Yahnke is appealing his felony conviction, but it will take at least a year before he knows the outcome.
So, he’s making the best of his current situation.
“Right now I’m putting small plastic bags into larger plastic bags,” he says. “I don’t want to do that or work in a plant like Hormel all my life.”
The past several weeks Yahnke and his brother Daniel have had to wake up at 6 a.m. to make a 45-minute drive to a Lake Mills, Iowa, landfill.
The job is a way to make and save money, he says, to move to Rochester soon and live with a friend.
That’s the future and Yahnke isn’t sure what it holds.
He’s considering obtaining a commercial driver’s license, attending a bartending school or acquiring a trade that will land him a high-paying job.
“Minimal education that has a good payoff. That’s what I want now,” he says.
The present, however, carries realities.
Yahnke is busy fulfilling legal conditions of his sentence.
Recently, he was in Blue Earth to meet with his probation officer and take an ‘I.Q.’ test. His day started at 9 a.m. and didn’t end until 3 p.m.
Yahnke was placed on supervised probation for 10 years, fined $580 and given a 23-month stay of execution. He also must obtain a high school diploma or GED certificate, complete 40 hours of community service and be employed.
When he was arrested and jailed, Yahnke needed 5 1/2 credits to graduate. He now needs one.
Although unable to return to Blue Earth Area High School to earn his diploma, he’s determined to finish school and meets with a teacher at a local library.
“If anything, having a high school diploma or serving in the military should be on your list of accomplishments in life,” he says.
Yahnke admits making money is the selfish motive partly responsible to have the felony expunged. As he sees it, getting a good job is tough enough without having a felony on your record.
“It closes a lot of doors and all kinds of opportunities,” he adds.
If there was any good coming out of his ordeal, it took Yahnke a few minutes of pondering.
He gets a little philosophical as Buddy and Alex take a short nap after they’ve welcomed him home.
“You know why man’s best friend is a dog?” Yahnke asks. “They bring you a lot of joy and they’re happy when they see you.”
He’s learning how to trust people again.
It was a friend, he says, who misunderstood what he said and it resulted in his arrest.
Yahnke says he never thought of being ‘one of those persons’ who are scared to trust people.
“You have to be more cautious. They may not know you as well as they think they do,” he says.