“Students from UW-Milwaukee really have the ability to make a difference in the community,” says Laurie Marks, director of the Center for Volunteerism and Student Leadership. And they have.
Three UWM student leaders recently received awards recognizing their leadership, community service efforts and commitment to being change agents in Milwaukee. Chosen from thousands of volunteers throughout the city, these students demonstrate the kind of civic engagement needed to make a real impact.
Angela Lang recently won the UW System Outstanding Woman of Color in Education Leadership award for her work both at UWM and in the Milwaukee community. Lang served as UWM Student Association president for the 2012 spring semester. She has worked tirelessly on promoting equality among women and minority students on and off campus.
As a founding member of the UWM American Civil Liberties Student Alliance, Lang educated students on how to be effective organizers while informing disenfranchised citizens on their voting rights. Lang also led a group of students in an organization called Students Equalizing Rights Forever at UWM, where she worked on issues regarding race, gender and sexual orientation equality.
Last year she served as vice chair of the Women’s Issues Caucus for the United States Student Association, the country’s oldest and largest national student rights organization. She currently serves as the Multi/Bi Racial Caucus chair. Lang played a huge role in establishing the new Center for Inclusive Excellence at UWM, which works to build a more welcoming campus for minority students.
“I feel like my voice is heard here at UWM,” Lang says. “Being able to talk to people and help them is so rewarding.” A senior majoring in International Studies, Lang hopes to continue her dedication to service by working in a community nonprofit after graduation.
Nick Robinson and his “little brother” Antowon received the “Match of the Year Award” from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee this fall.
After seeing posters promoting Big Brothers Big Sisters around campus, Robinson decided to apply to be a “big brother” in 2007. He was matched with then-8-year-old Antowon, whom he continues to mentor to this day.
Being a part of Antowon’s life for five years has allowed Robinson to see him grow up. In addition, “You learn who you are as a person; it forces you to take more notice of yourself and your actions,” he says. Robinson adds that the experience has helped him develop patience and “preparenting” skills that will come in handy later in life.
The two will be matched until Antowon turns 18. According to Robinson, the most rewarding part of being a “big brother” is knowing he’s made a positive, lifelong impact on his “little brother.”
Another stand-out volunteer from UWM is a junior Psychology major, Victoria Fischer. A nontraditional student, Fischer has managed to fit right into campus life. In fact, she is a first-year mentor for other transfer and adult students.
When she took a Multicultural English class that required service learning, Fischer chose to work with kids in the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. She has been a regular volunteer for nearly two years, and recently received the 2012 Volunteer of the Year award.
She currently volunteers at Boys and Girls Clubs sites all over Milwaukee. “I go wherever they need me,” says Fischer. She is admired by Boys and Girls Club workers for her “can do” attitude and sincere commitment to the mission of the organization.
Fischer has kids of her own, so making time to volunteer, have a job and be a full-time student has been a challenge, but one that she enjoys. “[The Boys and Girls Clubs] is such a great place to work and learn,” says Fischer. She feels that working for the Boys and Girls Clubs is a perfect fit for her because she is able to gain experience tutoring kids, while getting an education and making a difference in the community.
“The Boys and Girls Clubs is such a positive environment. From the president of the organization to the children, everyone truly believes in the mission,” Fischer says. “You can really see the love and support for one another glowing in the office.”
“The city is starving for young leaders such as Angela, Nick, and Victoria. UWM is positioned to be a primary source for producing the future leaders who are going make a real difference in the lives of others in our city. That’s our goal, to inspire citizenship and community involvement amongst our student population,” says Marks.
There are hundreds of student volunteers who go into the community each week and put their talents to use. The leadership and service opportunities available in metro Milwaukee make UWM a prime place for students to develop leadership skills through engagement. UWM’s newly named Center for Community-Based Learning, Leadership, & Research plans to open this December with the goal of continuing to foster the growth of student leaders on and off campus.