"I had over 850 volunteer service hours in high school, which is kind of crazy."
Photos by Megan Monday
Erin and Donnie | UW-Oshkosh, WI
Erin: I went YMCA Camp Sturtevant ever since I was five. It was a before and after school program first, and then I went for summer camp. When I turned 13, I was old enough to volunteer, so I started volunteering as a junior counselor. By 16, I was able to have a job there, and I also continued to volunteer. Volunteerism is something that is very, very important to me. It gives me...you know when they talk about the 'feel-goods?' Volunteering just makes me feel really good. I had over 850 volunteer service hours in high school, which is kind of crazy.
Our YMCA Camp had a lot a kiddos with different abilities. There was one little girl eight-year-old girl, Jessica, who really inspired me. She is deaf and blind and was super sweet and was so patient and caring with the other campers. I was able to work with her the entire two weeks that she was at camp, and we developed a very special bond. She taught me sign language and really inspired me to recognize that there's the same in stuff everyone, and that everyone has their own special skills. She really set me on the path and toward my passion to help people in my future profession.
Erin: My mom had me when she was 18 and was a single parent until I was four. She put herself through school when I was really little. Watching her work so hard to get her degree really inspired me.
I grew up in Birnamwood, Wisconsin, which is a super small town. It's like 700 people, and we lived way out in the country on a farm. We had 'drive your tractor to school day' every year, and things like that.
I finished third in my high school class and I had really good ACT scores, so I was able to go to college wherever I wanted to go, which was really, really cool! I narrowed it down to UW-Oshkosh and UW-Eau Claire. The tour guide at Oshkosh is who really sold me on coming here and I'm so glad, because I love it here.
My mom and step-dad don't make a ton of money, but I'm an only child, so I don't qualify for any financial aid at all.
And my parents are still really young, so there never was a college fund for me or anything like that. It's all on me; I have full loans for every year that I've been in school. It's a lot of money.
This year I’ll be taking 18 credits and I'll be working around 35 hours per week. I really love being involved through my jobs on and off campus, but the financial side...it is a challenge.
Erin: I absolutely love UW-Oshkosh in all ways and all senses. It is such a wonderful place to be, the community of Oshkosh itself and the campus. It is so welcoming and there is so much pride to be a Titan!
Donnie and I work together in Residence Life. This time of year is all about welcoming the new students. I think it's so exciting for people to be able to come to a university, whether it’s UW-Oshkosh or anywhere else, and be able to have so many new experiences, meet so many new people and really broaden your perspective on life.
I would be nowhere near the person that I am now if I had stayed back at home.
For instance, I would have no idea what LGBTQ meant, or no idea about social justice. I wouldn’t understand or appreciate others' perspectives as well as I do now. I'm just, really excited just to share that experience with other people.
Donnie: I’m Donnie; I have a student job in Residence Life, in community development.
Our whole objective is that we want new students to feel welcome, and like they can get involved really easily or reach out to anyone. We have so many staff members here to help. We have community advisors, health advocates, resident hall directors, assistant resident hall directors. All just making sure students feel comfortable and if they have questions that they always get the answer right away.
I'm actually an orientation captain, so I lead tours. We're going to go show them everything. Where they can use the tutoring center, the math lab, the reading center, all those sorts of things. Also, the tours are a really nice way for students to first meet and make connections with other first-years. We start to build a community. We play fun little games here and there. We have some motivational speakers. It's a really nice entrance to college.