Jake Kruger and Raven are a pair that would probably catch your eye if you saw them walking around the St. Cloud State University campus. After all, it’s not every day that a black lab attends an actual lab.
Raven, the black lab, has been at her handler’s side for the past four years. Kruger, who has been blind since the age of two, was united with his seeing eye-dog, Raven, in June of 2019 when he decided to attend St. Cloud State. She came from a non-profit based out of Michigan called Leader Dogs and was given to Kruger through donations. The pair have been learning and working together ever since.
Despite Kruger’s inability to see and his use of a guide dog, he has several typical science student hobbies. At home, Kruger tends to his greenhouse filled with plants. He grows a variety of plants such as zucchini and cucumber, but he has also grown 200-pound pumpkins. One year, Kruger even grew 400 maple trees. In addition to his hobby for plants, Kruger ran cross country and wrestled in high school. More recently, he’s been more into hunting, notably deer and geese, with the help of a family member or friend. Kruger has always had an interest in biology whether he’s growing plants or hunting.
When Kruger was younger, the biological roles of predator and prey relationships always fascinated him. This interest is what led him to the “BEEs” program at SCSU and a major in Biology: Ecology and Evolution. STEM programs are usually some of the harder programs at universities, and for Kruger, being blind was another obstacle in his pursuit of higher education. Thankfully, through collaboration with SCSU’s Student Accessibility Services, Kruger had help in many forms such as detailed image descriptions, lab assistant support and accommodations for Raven.
Additionally, Kruger is a recipient of a prestigious scholarship through the ACCESS STEM project which is funded by the National Science Foundation. The ACCESS STEM project provided support through targeted interventions, one of which was the work of the dedicated Grant Coordinator, Lois Schindler, who worked with Kruger to ensure his success.
One of Kruger’s favorite adventures from his time at SCSU was the trip to the Boundary Waters that he and Raven were a part of. The trip gave Kruger, Raven and other students the opportunity to experience field work in a biologically diverse environment. Some activities included lectures, sample collecting, canoeing and camping in the wilderness area. Kruger said that the trip was a big confidence booster for him and Raven. It was one of the things that made him even more certain that he would be able to handle graduate school at Bemidji State University.
Kruger graduated from SCSU this Spring will soon be transitioning to life at Bemidji State where he will be pursing his Master of Science degree in Biology. At Bemidji State, Kruger will be a teaching assistant and will be researching a soon-to-be determined topic of interest. Kruger says that he’s most nervous for teaching labs but he’s confident that he will do well once he gets going. His end goal is to teach at a Community College after he gets his graduate degree. The only real concern he has is getting to know the new campus landscape. Currently at SCSU, Kruger is familiar with the shape and feel of every door handle, this is how he determines whether he is entering the right building or not. It will take some getting used to, but it’s nothing him and Raven haven’t had to learn before.