On July 17-19, WILSers from near and far gathered at Marquette University in Milwaukee for the 2015 summer reunion. Thanks to reunion planners Kenna Schacht and Kim Fleming, the event was another memorable WILS weekend. After many eager and excited greetings, we all headed to Comedy Sportz, our traditional opening event, to begin the occasion with a few laughs. The show was hilarious as always and kick started a great weekend. We finished off Friday night by returning to Marquette for large group reflections and a little bit of time to socialize before bed.
Saturday was defined by uncooperative weather. A drizzling morning left us unable to volunteer as planned at the Guest House of Milwaukee. Instead, we turned our efforts to making tie blankets and writing letters for soldiers deployed overseas for Operation Not Alone, an organization founded by fellow WILS alumnus Susan Fochs. Just as the clouds began to clear, it was time for the annual WILS carwash fundraiser. With the sun shining at our Piggly Wiggly and Rocky Rococo’s Pizza locations, we were able to raise $293.50, enough to sponsor 1.5 student leaders at next year’s seminar. After a hard afternoon’s work, we all enjoyed a hearty lunch at the Milwaukee Public Market. As it again began to rain intermittently, we were luckily headed indoors for a tour of the Sprecher Brewing Company. Not only was it cool to get a behind the scenes look at their beverage making process, but we also got to drink free samples of their many varieties of soda! We had planned to cap off Saturday night by heading to the shores of Lake Michigan for a picnic dinner; however, we were once again foiled by the rainy weather. Instead, we spent the evening socializing and playing ping pong, pool and even pickup games of football and ultimate Frisbee when the sun decided to peek through the clouds. We wrapped up our final night in Milwaukee with the Alumni Board meeting and small group reflections.
On Sunday we gathered to hear Adam Drent, our guest speaker and a colleague of Alumni Advisor Stephanie Zellner, discuss effective communication strategies in the workplace. His lecture was bittersweet; a great activity, yet it marked the end of our 2015 summer reunion. Far too soon, we said goodbye and headed back to our respective corners or the state. I think that I speak for all of us when I say that winter reunion cannot come soon enough!
With WILS love,
Elliot Smallidge, ‘13er
A WILS NIGHT OUT
When you walk out of your first seminar, there’s suddenly a connection you have with hundreds who went through the same experience, and you don’t want to lose any of that! A lot of the 15’ers this year are part of a big group chat, where we all constantly check up on each other. Some of us talk every single day, but not a day goes by where we don’t hear about musical rehearsals, funny stories, test results, or even just random chatter. We all were able to keep the friends we made at seminar, and at the same time, create new ones that we’ve never met- yet we feel as though we’ve known them all our lives. Every day the connection gets stronger, and now we rely on each other as a support system, a big family. Some of us will even travel 2 hours just for a few hours together, not even doing anything huge, just sitting at a Culver’s and a bird-viewing preserve for hours just to be together and talk while being able to physically be near each other instead of just over a phone.
Tristan Shafer: When I first got invited to WILS I never imagined myself driving 9 hours from being a camp counselor in New York to summer reunion in Milwaukee. I never imagined myself driving two hours north to see some of my best friends that I met because of WILS. On October 24th that’s exactly what I did, along with two other 15’ers from my area. We drove two hours from my small town of Port Washington to Appleton. The drive alone was amazing to catch up with the people I didn’t get to spend enough time with, and it got even better when we met up with three other 15’ers from the Green Bay area. The entire night made me realize how lucky I was to be a part of WILS, and how it impacted my life so significantly that just one weekend in June formed friendships that could not be destroyed by time or distance.
Zainab Manzoor: Out of all of us, I knew a lot about WILS because the 14’er from my town really prepped me a lot (shout out to T-Bould, you the best). Every day I talk to these amazing, fantastic, and incredible people that make me really proud to call each of them my best friends. The drive to Green Bay felt like nothing, there was never a dull or awkward moment in the car. When we met up at Culvers, we ended up staying there for 2 hours just talking about random things. It wasn’t at all like we lived hours apart, but just like we’ve seen each other every day. At the bird-viewing preserve, it was actually really cold, but I didn’t feel it. I was just happy to be there. To be honest, I was probably more comfortable with these guys then I am with people I see every day. WILS is such a big part of me now, that I could never imagine my life without it.
Rachel Hietpas: When I walked into the counselor’s office during my sophomore year I had not heard of WILS before and thought that it was just a piece of paper that distributed an inheritance after someone died. Little did I know that WILS would end up changing my entire summer and the rest of my life. I met so many amazing people who taught me more about leadership than I thought possible. I have also made friendships that mean the world to me. I know that I can always count on my friends and that they will be there for me no matter what. When some of them talked about coming to the Green Bay area on October 24th, I couldn’t contain my excitement! I even had a countdown and looked at it every night to see the number diminish until the day came! We picked up right where we left off and it was as if we saw each other every day. I couldn’t be more thankful for the friendships that I have made and the opportunities that WILS has provided me.
Madison Hanson: In all honestly, I had very little expectations for WILS. I thought it would just be another conference that should be attended to look good for college. I was proved wrong the moment I stepped out of my car when a big smiling face came up to me in the pouring rain, just to make sure I felt welcomed. Not only did I meet amazing individuals from my area, but I met many others from all over the state. We all managed to keep in touch and even decided to have our own little reunion on October 24th, over six months later! We had so much fun talking and catching up that we did not even notice that 2 hours went by! No one wanted to leave, so we all drove to a bird-viewing preserve and watched the stars for hours. It felt so right to be surrounded by all of these wonderful people and I never wanted the night to end. I love everyone that I have met from WILS as much, or even more, than I do my friends I’ve known forever. Nothing can describe how happy I am to meet these wonderful people and I know for sure that our friendships will last a lifetime.
Lindsay Jost: Being the first from my school to attend WILS, I had no idea to expect. I had never been to a leadership conference before so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. To my surprise, it would end up being one of the best experiences of my life. I was unaware that I would make new friends from all over the state and I was equally unaware of how I would maintain these new friendships I had made. Fortunately at the Corn Roast, I met more new WILSers who decided to add me to a group message with lots of people from our year. Even though we didn’t go to a haunted house like we planned, we ended up going to a random bird watching station in the middle of nowhere. It was incredibly serene there with nothing but us and the stars. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every person I have met through WILS has been compassionate and friendly with their own unique quirks and opinions. I am incredibly grateful and lucky to have been connected to new friends who truly care for others and are willing to drive 2 hours to meet each other just to chat in a random Culver’s.
Riley Bellin: I, like the five preceding me, walked into WILS without knowledge of what was to come throughout the weekend. No thoughts of mine were preconceived, mostly because my mind was devoid of any knowledge of WILS and the amazing group of people involved in it. As soon as the weekend ended, I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of WILS through the entirety of my life, and that meant following up with the 15’ers, making sure they are okay and meeting up with them when a time opened up. That time, fortunately, turned out to be the night of October 24th, 2015. The most positively thought provoking part about that night was the fact that within the span of the month of October, I had never been as happy as I was that night. Talking to all of these positive, caring, and world-shaking people has really led me to believe that my life was meant to interconnect with theirs. That night I fully realized that no distance, no stretch of land – whether east, west, north, or south – could ever break the friendship I had with all of these people. No words could describe how lucky I am and how astounded that such a weekend with these people could form such a relationship – one that would last a lifetime.
WINTER REUNION SIGN UP
Leah Witthuhn and Shane Murphy have been hard at work planning a fun-filled weekend December 27th-29th in Appleton, WI at La Quinta Hotel. Please send this form along with a $35 CHECK deposit to Shane by Friday, November 20th if you would like to join to:
3629 S. Kernan Ave.
Appleton Wisconsin, 54915
Name: _________________ E-Mail:_________________________
Address: ___________________________ Seminar Year: _______
Phone #: ___________________________
Need a ride to reunion?: Yes or No
Can you drive AT reunion (18+)?: Yes or No
Are you 21+?: Yes or No
Any food allergies/dietary concerns (vegetarian?): ____________________