Belvidere North debate student overcomes odds in pursuit of national award

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BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) -- A debate student from Belvidere North High School has overcome the odds in his pursuit for a national award.

Johnathon Giesecke is a 2019 Illinois High School Association nominee for a "Heart of The Arts" Award. He was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome in second grade, but has fought setbacks to excel in national debate competitions.

Giesecke has nearly 30 accolades from local, state and national competitions in high school. He hopes to inspire others battling disorders like Tourette's Syndrome.

"Looking in the future and being able to set myself up to be successful for college is what really helps motivate me in high school," Giesecke said. "A lot of kids have reached out to me saying they also have Tourette's, so it shows that you can overcome these things.

Giesecke's main symptoms include tics that at times may have led him to involuntarily add words to sentences.

"Tourette's can be a part of you, but it doesn't have to stop you," Giesecke said.

With help from his debate coach, Geisecke has been able to make the most of his opportunities in high school.

"He doesn't use it as a way to make excuses," said Nicole Kroepel, debate coach at Belvidere North. "He doesn't let it define him. It's more about working past it ,and learning to work with it rather than letting it be a reason he can't do something."

Geisecke and his classmate Burke Cochran also recently won the 2019 IHSA State Public Forum Debate Championship

The "Heart of the Arts" Awards have been sponsored by the NFHS since 2014. To learn more about the honors, click here​.