I am employed as an Instructional Designer in the Medicare and Retirement division of UnitedHealthcare. I am part of a team that researches and designs training programs that assist sales agents in performing at a high level while maximizing sales growth for the organization. In addition, I also moonlight as a DJ and MC for Elite Music Service, which gives me the opportunity to create memorable events for our clients while igniting a deeper passion for music and making people smile.
I was born and raised on the Stockbridge-Munsee Indian Reservation in Bowler, WI. I grew up in a mixed cultural household (my mom is German descent and my dad is Native American and Italian descent). I am the oldest of two. I have one brother, Andrew (30). Andy is married to his wife, Ronni, and together they have three kids: My nephews, Aden (10), Kash (7) and my niece, Baelyn (5). As is standard with many Native American families, I also have many cousins who grew up with me and were treated like they were my siblings.
Growing up on the reservation, you learn the importance of community, culture, giving and family. It was instilled in me at a young age to always give more than you receive. My family practiced what they preached and always gave back in different ways; through volunteerism, careers and the list goes on. The majority of my life has had a focus on community engagement, youth activism and education. These areas have been a passion and the center point of my life’s work for over 20 years. When I am not attempting to save the world, I enjoy participating in community theatre, karaoke, taking random road trips, biking, volunteering and baking cakes full of smiles and rainbows.
It is hard to pick one favorite moment from my DWOS16 experience. In the fall of 2015, I was at a turning point in my life where I was ready to experience something new and something that would take me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t expect this experience to change my life the way it did. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. While every experience was memorable, one stands out. I had the opportunity to return to Bowler Elementary School (the school I attended growing up) to speak about the American Red Cross, my life experiences and the importance of giving back. I challenged the nearly 100 students (Kindergarten to 6th grade) to a penny war. One month later, Mina and I traveled back to Bowler to learn how much the students raised and dance for them. I will never forget the look on Mina’s face when the students presented me a check for over $600. I was speechless. I’ve always been a firm believer that when you empower a young person into community service, they empower their peers and that empowers a community. This was a prime example of this. I’m proud to be a Bowler Panther!
I was approached shortly after my DWOS16 experience to take part in DWOS All-Stars. Originally, I planned to decline the offer. It was at the encouragement of my mother, Jill that I decided to accept the offer to join the cast of DWOS All-Stars. On September 12, 2017, I celebrated 20 years of life from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. In that accident, I suffered a head injury, and severe injuries to my knee and elbow. I received several units of blood, which saved my life.
It was a moment of encouragement that gave me the direction that forever changed my life. While in the hospital, my grandmother, the late Verna Johnson-Miller, said to me: “You have been given a second chance at life. Now its up to you to figure out why.” This moment gave me the drive to live for something. I’ve never ceased on finding the ‘why’.
On February 24, 2018, I will celebrate 20 years when I took my first steps without the assistance of a wheelchair, crutches or a walker. In April of 2018, I will celebrate 20 years as an American Red Cross volunteer. Looking back over the 20 years, I have lived a fulfilled and accomplished life. What better way to celebrate 20 years of life, accomplishments and volunteerism and to celebrate the next chapter in my life than to participate as a DWOS All-Star?