Checking in With Scholarship Winners

Checking in With Scholarship Winners

May 08, 2018

Western Fraternal Life believes in the importance of education. We strive to help our members achieve their educational goals by providing 25 yearly scholarships. Since 2000, Western has awarded $356,000 in scholarships to its members. Recently, we checked in with a few of our past winners to see where their journey has taken them since graduating from college.

James Cody

James Cody, No. 9, Morse Bluff, NE was one of our first scholarship winners back in 2000. He attended Iowa Western Community College and majored as a Microcomputer Support Specialist.

What led you to this career choice?
My fascination with the home PC that was becoming more popular in the 90’s. You could do and learn something new and exciting every day, never doing the same thing twice. After purchasing our first one at home, the possibility of things to do with it were endless. It was something new to learn each day.

What are you doing now?
My title is Technology Coordinator and I work for the high school where I graduated. I manage and fix all of the technology in the district of around 600 students with two buildings preschool through 12th grade. I got an internship at a school district while going to college. That led to a career in fixing computers in higher education for the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I moved back closer to home because I missed small town life. Once I got married to a teacher in the local school district, I got a job at the local school district and have been with them for the past eight years.

What has been your hardest transition since graduating?
I would say becoming a responsible adult. Not only has it been almost 18 years since graduation from high school, I’ve been married for 8½ years. Now with two kids, learning to take care of them, and teaching them right from wrong rather than just taking care of myself, has been a challenge.

What has been surprisingly easy for you?
For me, learning the different technologies that have changed and evolved over the last 18 years.

How did school prepare you for the future?
They got me thinking like a computer technician. I might not have learned everything in school, but it taught me how to troubleshoot and think in many areas of IT and how to troubleshoot problems.

How did your involvement with the lodge prepare you for the future?
My grandparents were involved with the lodge and while going to events with them, I saw a work ethic that I wanted to mirror down the road in my life.

How would you like to continue the fraternalism (being of service to others) in your career/life?
Working with high school kids. It is a nice feeling to be able to show others some fields in IT and get kids interested in a future with IT so that they can continue helping others fix problems down the road. I also use my skills to help out with several computer related issues around town at a few businesses and with the local veterans clubs.

Do you have any words of wisdom for new graduates?
Never stop learning new things. Take in as much information as you can, the next 20 years will go by fast. I had the chance for some cheap additional education in my 20’s while at the university but did not take advantage of it. Those are the opportunities you want to take full advantage of.

Cade Sikora

Cade Sikora, No. 141, Cadott, WI, won the Western scholarship in 2011 and 2012. He attended the University of WI-Eau Claire and majored in Business Management with a minor in History. Cade recently started attending Ohio State University to pursue an MFA in Theatre Scenic Design.

What led you to this career choice?
I was heavily involved in theatre both in and out of school (and through Western Fraternal Life) before going to UWEC. After a year or so of attending UWEC, I realized that a career could be made out of what I enjoyed doing, so I went for it. I had been gigging theatre jobs across Wisconsin and Minnesota after graduating undergrad. I decided to refine my design and theatre scholarship skills to dive more deeply into professional work and go into academia.

How did school prepare you for the future?
My time at UWEC opened up countless career options for me and trained me to know how to follow them up and seek them out.

How did your involvement with the lodge prepare you for the future?
Lodge 141 was very important to my preparations for the future. They were gracious in letting me organize plays and other events at the hall with friends in high school and early college. This early experience in organization, administration, design, and performance has been instrumental in forming my skill set. Also, the strong connection I have to the lodge’s history has helped to fuel my interest in the study of Czech theatre and history as a whole.

Are you still involved in the lodge or other volunteer activities?
I still keep in touch with members of Lodge 141 and helped set up their booth at the UWEC International Folk Fair until I moved away to Ohio. I also help the lodge YELL! group make May baskets for community members each May.

How would you like to continue the fraternalism (being of service to others) in your career/life?
An important part of my trajectory has been to find opportunities to use theatrical expression where none exist. This started in high school when Lodge 141 allowed my friends and me to put on plays. I work on many pet projects, which I try to extend to others, like creating origami flowers for the YELL! group’s May baskets. Also, an important part of my career development involves studying and documenting history where thorough documentation does not yet exist. I imagine that as my skills and career develop, so will the opportunities I have to serve and work with others.

Do you have any words of wisdom for new graduates?
Make your own opportunities.

Bailey Bacon

Bailey Bacon, No. 7, Cedar Rapids, IA was a two time winner of our National Scholarship (2012 and 2014) and also won the ZCBJ Scholarship in 2012 and 2013. She attended the University of Northern Iowa and is now a Biology teacher in Kansas City, KS.

What led you to this career choice?
My love for science and passion to share it with others. I’ve also always loved kids, so I knew I’d stay away from office jobs or manual labor. I student-taught in Kansas City through the University of Northern Iowa and loved the city’s atmosphere. I also had a great financial opportunity if I stayed in the area, and so it was an easy decision to move here permanently!

What has been your hardest transition since graduating?
I don’t know that anything comes to mind. Of course being an adult is always an interesting adventure, but nothing in particular has been difficult.

What has been surprisingly easy?
Enjoying my job! When I first moved here, I was really nervous that the rumors about your first-year teaching would be true. Quite honestly, it’s had its challenges but it isn’t anything near as terrible as people warned me it would be. I absolutely love my job and the high schoolers I teach! 

How did school prepare you for the future?
It gave me much of the background I needed to teach. There are things everyday where I think “shoot I wish I knew the answer to that” but I can also use that as a great reminder to myself that you don’t ever stop learning. It also taught me to budget my time and money better. My last three years I lived off campus so I had to learn to cook more for myself, budget my time on and off campus, and make money while maintaining grades.

What are your plans in the next 5-10 years?
I want to stay in Kansas City for at least five years to finish a teaching commitment I made. I’ve considered starting my masters next August, but who knows, I will just see where life takes me.

How would you like to continue the fraternalism (being of service to others) in your career/life?
I am very involved at school with different organizations and athletic activities. I think that as a teacher it is really easy to see myself serving others on a daily capacity. I would also like to branch out and find other organizations that deal with teens in the after-school hours!

Do you have any words of wisdom for new graduates?
Study abroad, do a national student exchange, or anything else that will force you out of your comfort zone. Studying abroad changed my life. I learned so much about myself, and it has shaped me and the way I teach my children. If I could say anything, it would be to do something that makes you really examine who you are and what you care about. Life is too short not to know what you love and to pursue it wholeheartedly!

Category: Fraternal

Darcy Hilton

Member Programs Coordinator

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