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THANK YOU to Silver Lake College and United Way Manitowoc County for sponsoring Michele Engelbrecht and I to go to Washington D.C. for the Student United Way Leadership Retreat (SUWLR) on Friday, September 9 - Sunday, September 11.  At the conference, we learned about leadership skills, club management, member recruitment, professional development, and global interaction.

After taking time to reflect on my experience at the SUWLR, I realized how proud I am to be apart of Silver Lake College's Student United Way. Last year, SLC Student United Way (SUW) had had 10 active members. It was only the second year SUW had been in place. I can proudly say Silver Lake College Student United Way currently has 30 active members. At the conference, Michele and I collaborated with both high school and college Student United Ways. The largest groups had 50 active members but a 9,000 student population at their college. Silver Lake College's percentage of students involved in Student United Way was much greater than any of the others! 

Overall, I was able to take away so much from the conference. Friday, September 9, we got to hear from Brian Gallagher who is the President of United Way Worldwide! He spoke about great leadership, leaders, and his career.  Great leadership and leaders need to have a mission/ purpose, be results driven, collaborative, adaptive, and have kindness. Brian said the way he got to his position today was saying yes to all jobs and tasks he was offered, kill the job he was in, and have many mentors. We also heard from Paul Monteiro, from the US Department of Justice. Paul talked on marketing your personal skills, be careful on social media, be part of a solution, and don't be defined by the circumstances you were born in. Both Brian and Paul were inspirational and wanted the Student United Way members there to all focus on ourselves. We cannot be a great leader, if we do not have self worth or are a good influence on others. 

Saturday, September 10, we got to hear Edwin Goutier speak from United Way Worldwide. He focused spoke on digital marketing and how important its role is. We learned that digital marketing comes down to the right message going to the right person at the right time. People are all different, in which we have to be specific to who we empathize and connect with. For the rest of the morning, Michele and I listened to other established Student United Ways. They gave us many ideas for recruiting members, volunteering projects, and fundraisers. In the afternoon, we got to hear from Vince Loran, also from United Way Worldwide. He told us to create the best version of ourself as a leader. This session carried on into Sunday morning. Vince brought emotion to myself especially, because we are so use to putting people first and not ourself. I learned a lot about unconsious bias, communication, cultural competency, and behavior and its takeaways. 

In my opinion, the most beneficial part of the conference was being able to interact with other Student United Ways at a high school and college level. One Student United Way I spent a lot of time with was from Panama. Their SUW builds houses for the less fortunate, hosts fundraisers that exceed $30,000, put shoes on every child in their school district, and much more! By the end of the conference, the advisors from the Panama SUW suggested I come to Panama to learn more about how to run a successful SUW and gain insight about their culture. I was determined to make that happen. It was always my dream to travel the world.

When choosing Silver Lake College, I knew they did not have a strong study abroad program. So, I put that dream on hold. When this opportunity was brought to my attention at the SUWLR, I remember thinking to myself, "This could be the only chance I get to travel abroad while in college and what better way then to be able to volunteer too!"  I am proud to say I was able to find sponsors for my transportation cost to Panama! THANK YOU to Belmark, Denmark Knights of Columbus, and Silver Lake College. I am so blessed to be able to start achieving my dream and improving Silver Lake College's community with many new ideas. 

I spoke with the advisors from Panama today to finalize what I will be doing while I am there. We wanted to maximize my time with Panama Student United Way, as much as possible. I will fly out to Panama on Thursday, September 29. One of the Panama SUW members will pick me up, and I will stay with her family. Friday, I get to go to school with the SUW members and participate in setting up for their golf tournament fundraiser. The golf tournament that is on Saturday, October 1 brings in at least $30,000 in revenue each year!  Sunday, October 2,  I get to go for dinner with the Panama SUW Board and do another service project. The morning of Monday, October 3, I will be attending a Panama SUW Board Meeting before I fly back Wisconsin. 

Thank you again for the opportunities you have given me. I am so proud to be a Silver Lake College student! I cannot wait to come back and share my experiences and ideas with you. 

Please contact me with any questions at AGallenberger@my.sl.edu or (920) 680-2929. I would love to share more information about Student United Way, Student United Way Leadership Retreat, or upcoming opportunity in Panama!

Thank You, 

Abby L. Gallenberger 
Silver Lake College Student United Way President