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Writing Snapshot of Success

Name: Jessica Lillie

Hometown: Fox Lake, Ill.

Title: Content specialist

Business: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

She lives and works in one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, but Jessica’s love for her alma mater runs deep. So deep, she says, she’d leave Monterey, Calif., and return to Sheboygan, Wis., in a heartbeat.

“My dream job is to work for Lakeland College,” says the 2010 graduate. “I feel it’s unfair that Lakeland did so much for me, and I haven’t given back. It’s hard to describe the greatness of Lakeland College, unless you’ve been there. It’s not a school, it’s a community. It’s like living in a house, with your family.”

As a content specialist, Jessica collects all sorts of documentation and information and puts it into the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s digital library. This information can vary widely, from congressional research reports or hearings transcripts to World Health Organization reports on evacuation plans and bovine diseases.

Prior to this job, Jessica completed a term of service working with fourth-graders as a literacy tutor for AmeriCorps, a U.S. government community service organization.

Jessica fueled her creative nature in multiple ways while at Lakeland. She served as editor of the Lakeland College Mirror newspaper, and won a Society of Professional Journalists regional award for a political cartoon drawing. She was an assistant editor for Seems, an international literary magazine published at Lakeland, and her budding musical career blossomed at Lakeland.

“When I was at Lakeland, if I could get involved, if I could jump into something creative, I was doing it,” Jessica says.

Jessica loved Lakeland from the moment she stepped foot on campus, for her initial tour.

“It’s just such a welcoming place,” she says. “Lakeland was hugely influential in my life. The professors were top-notch, always so helpful. Everyone there is always so willing to help you succeed.”

Theatre Snapshot of Success

Name: Emma Drake

Hometown: Beaver Dam, Wis.

Title: Admissions and advancement intern; JV volleyball coach

Business: Wayland Academy

William Shakespeare famously wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players …”

It’s a sentiment that would probably resonate with Emma.

“Theatre teaches you the fundamentals of life,” she says. “It’s about teamwork, caring for others and caring for your community, while at the same time being able to carry the load individually. You have to be prepared because you’re an integral part of the team. Without you, the train can fall off the tracks.”

Emma, who earned her bachelor’s degree in business management and was rock-solid academically, drew tremendous personal inspiration from the theatre program.

“Everyone’s looking for people to hang out with who are like them and who understand them,” says Emma, whose dream job is to someday run a theatre or art center. “While all of Lakeland is welcoming that way, the Bradley Fine Arts Center is where I went when I wanted someone to talk to.”

Emma never acted at Lakeland, but her organizational fingerprints were all over just about every production. She stage managed “To Kill a Mockingbird” in 2009 and says, “My involvement just grew from there.” She also played a key role with the Theatricians, serving as secretary, vice president and president, and directed three productions for the student drama club.

One Lakeland student, a football player named Todd Szymuszkiewicz, had never acted. But after some coaxing from Emma, he read for a part and eventually enjoyed a smashing acting debut in a Theatricians production. Less than a year later, he played the lead role in the school’s production of “Equus.”

“To see someone grow like that is just incredible,” Emma says.

Lakeland’s theatre program certainly helped Emma grow. At Wayland Academy, a private boarding school in Beaver Dam, Wis., there was a need for a junior varsity girls’ volleyball coach. Emma, who had never played or coached the sport, thought about something Associate Professor of Theatre and Speech Charles Krebs likes to say: “Do one thing every day that scares you,’” she recalls with a chuckle.

Her time at Lakeland came and went in a flash, but she won’t soon forget the school’s impact on her life.

“Lakeland molded me into the person I am today,” she says. “What Lakeland builds itself on is being a community, a family. That’s forever.”

Spanish Snapshot of Success

Name: Emily Bass

Hometown: Verona, Wis.

Title: : International program assistant

Business: International Samaritan

Coming out of high school, Emily planned on someday becoming a Spanish teacher.

“Then I took the Introduction to Nonprofit Organizations class at Lakeland, and my whole world changed,” she recalls. “I learned to mix Spanish and nonprofit together, and I found my dream job.”

International Samaritan, a nonprofit organization based in Ann Arbor, Mich., aims to build better communities for people living in and around developing countries’ city garbage dumps. It does this through working with local governments and improving basic infrastructure by building homes, medical facilities, daycare facilities and community centers, among other things.

Emily’s job is important and satisfying. The 2011 Lakeland College graduate organizes community service trips abroad for American high school and college students and church groups that want to help. Once the volunteers arrive at their destination, Emily uses her fluency in Spanish to translate. This is critical because she is often the primary liaison between native construction crews or local government reps, for example, and the American volunteers who are there to work. In her first six months on the job, Emily has helped lead groups to Guatemala and Nicaragua.

“I love it,” she says of her job. “I’m really happy I got it.”

Emily graduated from Lakeland with her double major in 3.5 years. She says she was anxious to finish school and “see the world,” which is exactly what she’s doing, but now, she says, “I really miss Lakeland.”

“Lakeland was definitely very good for me,” she says. “I am a quiet, shy person by nature, but the one-on-one relationships with the teachers helped me open up and establish strong relationships with them. I could contact them at any time, and in fact, when I was going for this job, I called one of the professors and got some great advice that helped me get the position.

“At Lakeland, I had a name. It was family. I was comfortable being myself, and I learned to open up more than I would have at a bigger school.”

Sociology Snapshot of Success

Name: Daniel Firkus

Hometown: Crivitz, Wis.

Title: Law student

Graduate School: Hamline University

After high school, Dan joined the Army, and for four years, he spent time in Kentucky, Iraq and Afghanistan.

He saw a lot, learned a lot and grew up a lot. Following his tour of duty, Dan attended Lakeland College, earned a sociology degree in 2011 and gained admittance into the highly regarded Hamline University School of Law in Minnesota. He also won the Justice Thurgood Marshall Scholarship, which covers full tuition.

“It’s challenging, and a lot is expected of you,” says Dan, 28, who has one more year at Hamline. “They give you the tools, but you are required to put in a lot of hours.”

This summer, Dan completed an internship with the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office. When he’s finished with law school, he plans to return to the U.S. Army – this time as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) Officer.

“I’d like to help soldiers in the Army,” Dan says. “There’s an array of legal issues, and having a JAG representative there helps morale. I like to help people. There’s so much going on, worrying about an expired lease or something like that is the last thing a soldier should be worrying about when the bullets are flying.”

While at Lakeland, Dan appreciated his professors and the tools and advice he was given to succeed.

“Lakeland is a strong academic school,” he says. “It’s all about education, with easy access to all of our professors. Professor Chris Moore wrote me a great recommendation, and I used all of the resources available to me to prepare for the LSAT. My advisor, Professor Alan Mock, and Professor Moore were very helpful in guiding me.”

Religion Snapshot of Success

Name: Cathy Sims

Hometown: Madison, Wis.

Title: Health aide

Business: Casa Community Services

When Cathy arrived at Lakeland College, religion was in the background of her thoughts. By the time she left, it was a significant force in her life.

“I had grown up in church and gone on mission trips when I was young, but I had kind of backed away from religion,” she says. “My first day at Lakeland, the chaplain was making her rounds and stopped in my room, and we had an immediate connection. Really, that connection brought my faith back.”

As a religion major, Cathy dove with zeal into classes such as feminist theology and biblical interpretation. Meanwhile, her work outside the classroom was a shining example of real-life community outreach. She started three clubs: the Lakeland College Service Group (which rang the bell during Salvation Army drives and provided daycare for a local church); the Eco Friends (which focused on campus-wide recycling and composting); and the Spiritual Life Council (which encouraged students of all denominations to visit the chapel and participate in school activities).

After graduating in 2010, Cathy was chosen for a year-long volunteer program through the United Church of Christ called Young Adult Service Communities. She was assigned to Southern Arizona, and worked for the senior lunch program and the adult day health care program. She took and passed a class to become a certified caregiver, and the day after the year-long program ended, she was hired fulltime.

Outside of work, her community service continues, mostly through a local church.

Cathy’s long-term goal is to become a health care administrator or run her own health care or hospice care organization.

“I think as far as my religion degree, it will be beneficial for the kind of counseling I will be able to give family members whose loved ones are at the end of life,” she says.

As Cathy looks back on her time at Lakeland, she recalls how her perspective changed after some initial trepidation.

“After the first year, I absolutely loved it. I had so many friends, so many great relationships with students, faculty and staff. When it came time to graduate, I did not want to leave.”

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