July 20, 2017
By David Nordby
The Brillion News
WHITEWATER – Even natural born leaders get nervous sometimes. That was the case, at least initially, when three area class of 2019 students – Sophia Anderson, Douglas Klister and Makaylee Kuhn – went to Wisconsin Leadership Seminars (WILS) at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater last month.
“It was a little bit tough at first,” Wrightstown’s Klister said. “No one from your school is also there.”
Anderson, a Brillion student, admitted nerves kicked in, as the weekend grew closer. “At first I was really, really excited because I always want to improve my leadership skills,” Anderson said. “As it got closer, I got a little nervous because it was totally unfamiliar. We all knew nobody.”
Kuhn, from Hilbert, admitted she didn’t expect to like the weekend as much as she did, in part because of not knowing anyone she’d be in groups with.
It’s a major accomplishment to be the sole representative chosen from your school for the seminar in June. Only 250 sophomore students throughout Wisconsin are nominated.
“It felt really cool just knowing that I was being known as one of the leaders in my school and top students in the class,” Klister said.
All three students say they have always been leaders in the classroom, and sports or extra curricular activities that they are involved with, since they were younger.
“In a small school you have to step up or get lost in the crowd,” Kuhn said.
WILS runs off all volunteers and has been in existence since 1978. The weekend seminars are no cost for the students or the schools. There are guest speakers and group activities all based around the group’s four pillars – responsibility, service, inclusiveness and decision-making.
“The development and experiences gained through WILS have a tremendous impact on our student leaders throughout their lives,” the group says.
Rhonda Noldner, a 1999 Brillion graduate, says that the group changed her life for the better when she was in high school and helped her break out of her shell. This year’s students agreed with that notion.
“Being able to work with people who are really similar to you is helpful,” Anderson said. All three agreed it was fun meeting new people; especially once they got comfortable in the small group and then later, larger group settings.
Noldner has been a member of the group’s alumni association since she attended in 1997, and makes it an annual tradition to return to help the year’s current crop of student leaders. This year she was paired up with Kuhn. All three students want to join the alumni association depending on their schedules because of the way the weekend helps students develop leadership skills.
“I didn’t expect to grow as much as I did and all of the activities helped with that and helped break you out of your shell,” Anderson said.
Her favorite activity was volunteering on a horse farm. Klister said his was hearing guest speaker Kyle Allen, who spoke about leadership in life and in sports. Klister believes the foundation of being a leader is relatively simple.
“Being kind and accepting of everyone,” Klister explains, adding that it starts with being a good student, being responsible and trustworthy to the adults and peers around him.
Like his peers from Brillion and Hilbert, Klister says WILS helped him grow in those areas.
“It was a really great experience,” Klister said. “Going in I wasn’t so sure of it. I was a little apprehensive … It ended up being really fun and a good experience.”
This story was featured in the July 20, 2017 edition of The Brillion News