By Brian Roebke
Four seniors, juniors, and sophomores from Wrightstown High School received awards from the Greenleaf Wrightstown Optimist Club’s Youth Appreciation Banquet last week at Van Abel’s of Holland-town. See photos on page 5.
Students were recognized for outstanding leadership within the school and community.
Wrightstown High School counselor Mike Olson said the school has great students who have a tradition of doing great things.
Olson said kids sometimes need to stop and think what they’re doing, and they’re all rock stars.
“Going home tonight think about what a great job you’re doing, think about the others in your school, think about how you come to our building every day with a great attitude toward education and the opportunity you have,” he said.
He made it clear the award was not about academics but it’s more about coming to school every day with a positive attitude, applying themselves, taking advantage of opportunities, coming prepared, doing all the little things that are going to lead to success.
The students were carefully selected by staff members who take the process very seriously and it’s an honor for them to earn the award.
He said he keeps a copy of the Optimist Creed in his office and encouraged others to keep it somewhere as a reminder of a good way of living.
Guest speaker Chuck Erickson is the president of the Appleton Optimist Club, Zone 7 Lieutenant Governor, and Governor-Elect for the Wisconsin North-Upper Michigan Optimists.
He told students this is not an award for the valedictorian, the kid who is good at basketball or ran the most yards on the football team but for kids who are making a difference in their schools, communities, and in the world.
“Right now that’s hard,” he said, noting we just went through the pandemic where the news was nothing but negative. There’s a war in the Ukraine, there are food and poverty issues, COVID-19 won’t go away.
“Youth appreciation is good because each of you is making a difference in your high school, in your community, in your friends, with your family, so you all should be very proud of this,” he said.
Erickson is an independent educational consultant who helps students navigate the college application process, working with kids one-on-one.
He told the audience when he was a teenager, he wanted to be a Spanish-speaking music teacher. “I love music class and I loved Spanish class, and I wanted to put them together,” he said.
He became a teacher in Ashwaubenon where he taught kindergarten, first-, and second-grade students music.
“So what did I get to do all day? I got to play fun games and sing fun songs,” he said. “Our world is full of negativity but find me a kindergarten music class that’s negative.”
He said he learned to be an optimist when he was in kindergarten, where everybody is friends, and he later got to do that for a career before moving to Lawrence University, where he worked with admissions.
Erickson sang the song, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and told them the spider never gave up and they shouldn’t either. As part of his gift to the students, they received an “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
He told the teenagers what they already know, every day is not going to be great, but how they faced those days and the world will determine how good their life is.
“Be optimistic, glass half full,” he said.
He said he’s worked with thousands of teenagers and something they often struggle with is how to get to their next phase in life.
They go from having to ask permission to use the restroom to having to make all the decisions for themselves and there’s no road map.
He told them the next time they have a bad day to think about The Itsy Bitsy Spider and all the things they have ahead of themselves because the sun is going to come out and they’re going to make it up the water spout.
President Jeff Van Rens told the students that in time, employment gets back to the service industry, and employers are looking for people.
“We can train anyone to do anything but you can’t train someone to have a good personality,” he said. “That’s something that only you have and when things get back to normal, that’s what employers will look for and they’re going to pay you for it.”
Optimists recognize 12 Wrightstown students
By Brian Roebke