Alumni Stories

Jake Lang - Class of 2009

  •  Jake Lang Picture 1     Jake   Jake Lang Fire Fighting

    My job is one you’ve probably never heard of. I work as a wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service, on a 20 person crew called the Wyoming Hotshots. Specifically my job is a Sawyer, which means I’m a chainsaw operator on forest fires. We’re based out of Greybull, WY, but each summer during fire season we travel to wherever we are needed. This year in 2019 we fought fires in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, and California. My job with them runs from the middle of May until early October each year, about 4.5 months total. During those months, however, we are working almost nonstop. When on fires, we work 16 hour shifts and sleep on the ground. Work, eat, sleep, repeat. This schedule typically lasts for 14 days straight. At that time we head back to our base in Wyoming and get 2 days off, and then go back available nationally and head out for another 14 day roll.

    How did I get into this? It definitely wasn’t my plan coming out of high school. In fact my goal during senior year was to become a doctor. That lasted one semester of college Chemistry which shut down that plan real quick. I then went on to get my college degree in Business Administration from UWSP (which for me turned out to be a complete waste of time and money. More on that in a minute). It was during my final semester of business school that I realized I wanted nothing to do with working in an office or doing whatever it is that ‘business school people’ go on to do. And it turns out that’s okay! I was then 22 years old, and heard about ‘Wildland Firefighters’. Sounded cool to me, and all you needed to get started were 3 basic certifications. S-130, S-190, L-180. All available at UW-Stevens Point, whether you are a student there or not. I then applied for many jobs out west, and in 2015 got hired on with the Wyoming Hotshots. In April of that year I loaded up my car and started driving west, all by myself and a bit terrified, the rest is history.

    IMPORTANT: Two ideas that seem to get pushed on high schoolers are that 1) you need to go to University or else you’re a loser, and 2) you need to have your life figured out now.

    1) Newman has a statistic that ~97% of graduates go on to some form of post-secondary education. While that may be true, it’s unfortunate that statistic gets echoed year after year. What’s wrong with that 3% who join the military or work for the family business? Nothing. We all go on to college simply because that is what is expected of us to do. By high schools, by our families, by society. What isn’t discussed is how we are setting the foundations of our adult lives to begin under enormous amounts of student loan debt. If your path is to become a doctor or engineer, then absolutely you need to go to college. If you are less decided on what you want to do in life, I would argue that there are better paths for you to initially take than paying to sit in a college lecture hall learning how mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

    2) FACT: If you’re a teenager in 2020 you’re probably going to live to be over 100 years old. This pressure that you have to come up with your complete life plan right now is completely ridiculous. You’ve got about 5 lifetimes ahead of you, and you could completely waste the next 20+ years of your life and still crush it in anything you decide to do. My advice going out of high school is to go taste some things! Learn how to weld, go drive a semi-truck, join the Marine Corps! Ever heard of commercial diving? Yeah check that out. Or go get the basic certs and apply for jobs out west as a wildland firefighter.

    Universities certainly have their purpose for many people, but there are so many more options than just that. And you can always, at any point in your life, go back to college.

    As for me I’m now 29 years old, not married, and don’t own a house. I love my job as a wildland firefighter and look forward to heading back to my crew every summer. My current plan is to stay in wildland fire and work my way up into leadership positions. In early 2020, I’m heading down to live on a Caribbean island for 2 months to learn kitesurfing and join the circus. No I’m not kidding! My biggest piece of advice is to always be learning new things, and never be afraid to fail. Remember, 5 lifetimes ahead of you.

Paige Kocourek - Class of 2015

  • Paige in Thailand   Thailand   Paige Students

    Tales of Thailand

    As graduation was quickly approaching, I was excitedly searching for a thrilling way to begin life following college. A productive trip to my career advisor at the University of St. Thomas led me to looking into teaching abroad. Traveling is one of my greatest passions, so this seemed like the perfect fit! I had studied abroad twice throughout my college career and was itching for another cultural adventure. Through a bit of research, I decided Thailand was where I desired to embark on this new journey. The application process to teach abroad was a whirlwind, and I soon found myself booking tickets to Bangkok, Thailand. I would be teaching six sixth-graders, seven different courses over the next five months.

    In preparation for my teaching escapade, I became TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certified in hopes of furthering my skills to be a prepared and knowledgeable teacher. My degree was in Business Communications, so I saw this as an important opportunity to learn some tools for my new position. This certification was accomplished through an intensive online course done throughout second semester of my senior year.

    Arriving in Bangkok was extremely exciting. Practically everything was different! The food, the culture, the weather (it was hotter than sitting in a sauna), the transportation, the language! Then I was tossed right into teaching my sixth-graders. It was an exhilarating feeling beginning to immerse myself in such a drastic way.

     Meeting my class was just as exciting as getting to Thailand. They were eager to meet me and very noisy little nuggets. Let me tell you, I learned the art of candy rewards and sticker charts pretty quickly. Along the way I also learned the importance of kindness and positivity in my classroom. The more I emitted these qualities, the more I received them in return and the more motivated my students were to learn. Days I was tired and stressed out were the hardest days to teach because my attitude would directly be reflected in my students’ attitude. This was a very important lesson. In addition, two out of my six spoke no English whatsoever. This challenge made me come up with creative ways to teach them while not holding the others back. Creativity was key as a teacher.  Almost as important as love and respect.

    By the end of my five months teaching, I sat bawling in my classroom after my kids presented me with handmade gifts and letters. They will forever be in my memories and heart, as well as my Facebook messages (they message me like crazy!).

    This was an absolutely incredible journey full of a multitude of experiences even beyond teaching; (like running a half-marathon in the mountains of Vietnam!). My next adventure is obtaining my pilot’s license and moving back to the Twin Cities for work! I am training for a marathon as well as planning my next fun trip! I feel extremely blessed for the opportunities I’ve had and ecstatic for my next steps!



Dr. Adam Garske - Class of 1999

  • Newman Catholic High School Alumnus Gives TED Talk

     Adam Garske

    On September 12, 2019, Dr. Adam Garske, Newman Catholic High School Class of 1999, had the distinct honor of giving a TED talk at the TED@DuPont event, at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, PA. The event featured twelve speakers selected by TED from around the world and highlighted topics such as the chemistry of electronics, smart clothing, the sensory perception of food and the microbiomes of infants.  One of twelve speakers, Adam presented on the design of enzymes to address societal challenges such as human health and the environment.

    Upon graduating from Newman Catholic High School in 1999, Adam received a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry from the University of St. Thomas before completing the doctoral program in Organic Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. In 2008, Adam moved to San Francisco, California as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of California – San Francisco. He began working as a scientist for DuPont in 2011 with a focus on industrial biotechnology. He is motivated by designing products that have a positive impact on the world and specializes in developing enzymes for use in a variety of applications such as laundry detergents and animal feed.

    Videos for the TED@DuPont event will be online and available for viewing by December of 2019.

Alex Bollmann - Class of 2017, Julianne Barkholz - Class of 2018

  • Julianne & Alex

    Go Navy!

    Alex Bollmann – Newman Graduating Class of 2017

    Alex will return this fall to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, as a Midshipman 2nd Class (College Junior).  He has played on the Navy Men’s Rugby team for the past two years and will continue to do so.  Alex will sign his “2 for 7 Commitment” which will allow him to finish his final two years at the Naval Academy and then obligate him to serve for at least five years thereafter as a commissioned Naval Officer or Marine Corps Officer.  His current service selection options are Marine Corps Aviation, Marine Corps Ground, SEALs, EOD, Naval Aviation, Submarines, or Surface Warfare.


    Julianne Barkholz – Newman Graduating Class of 2018

    Julianne just finished a post-secondary year at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island, and she has earned an appointment to attend the Naval Academy.  She will report to Annapolis for Induction Day on June 27, 2019, when she will start an intensive six-week training phase called “Plebe Summer.”  When academic classes begin in late August, she will be considered a “Plebe” (Midshipman 4th Class/College Freshman). During her first year, Jules will be a member of the Women’s Track Team.

  • Marne Boehm - Class of 2016

    Marne Boehm

    This summer I traveled to Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg and Durban, South Africa as part of a mission seminar course at Viterbo University. This course is centered around serving the common good, with a specific emphasis on the   common good in South Africa. A large part of doing good is through active service, but it is not just any service that satisfies the common good. Service-learning is a more appropriate term because it requires the servers to be conscious of the community’s need. Viterbo University defines service learning as “a method of teaching that consists of student participation in a service activity that meets an identified community need, has a connection to course content, and includes continuous reflection emphasizing the learning involved in the experience.” I believe the most important aspect of service learning is the continuous reflection. Mindless service loses its meaning, and allows for little growth or betterment of a person. Good service learning should lead into what Robert Greenleaf calls “servant leadership.” In his 1970 essay Greenleaf defines a servant leader as one who “focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong,” which aligns with the definition of the common good. Truly, the servant leader, which we should all aim to be, is someone who works toward the common good. Taking all of this into consideration, travelling to South Africa, as servant leaders we focused foremost on understanding what the community needed versus what we wanted to give them.

    My professor wanted to ensure we would be doing ethical service, to keep away from feeding the ideology of a "white savior." Through some connections he had in Pietermaritzburg, we ended up staying at Project Gateway, a non-profit organization built on old prison grounds left from the Apartheid era. Their facilities include an overnight shelter for the homeless, community gardens and crèches (similar to a childcare center), HIV/Aids Training, a Gateway Christian School, and much more. We stayed in an old building, and the rooms still showed to once be prison cells. During our time there, the only physical service we did consisted of painting one of their hallways. We also spent some time at the Christian school helping with Physical Education and Music classes. Being that we were there for such a short time, the physical impact of our service was very little. We learned and gained far more from the people we met than we could ever give back. This is sometimes difficult to acknowledge, but I think the path you take from doing service going forward matters most. Travelling to South Africa proved to me that I knew nothing about South Africa, and as someone who experienced a small piece, it's my service to spread the truth of South Africa to others. I believe this is the value in intercultural knowledge. It is impossible to understand another nation when you've never experienced their culture or taken the time to learn about it. Overall, I would encourage others to do the same. Travelling to another country should always be about what another's culture can teach you, not the other way around. I do believe, however, that travelling and doing service ended up teaching me more about myself.

  •   Luke Johnson - Class of 2017

     Luke Johnson

    In the first semester of my sophomore year at St. Norbert College, I made the decision to join the TRIPS Program, a unique student organization that gives students the opportunity to participate in a number of alternative break service trips.  After an application and interview process, I was selected to attend a trip entitled: "Children's Medical: Stitched with Love."  This trip would take place in December following finals week, and our destination would be Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.  

     I can confidently say that going on this trip was one of my favorite experiences in college thus far.  At Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, our group of nine students had the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of patients and their families by offering our time and services.  From taking a hot drink cart around the hospital to helping run various activities such as an art room and movie room, our small group of St. Norbert students was able to help around the hospital in a variety of ways.  Our trip to Memphis also gave us the opportunity to receive a tour of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, visit the National Civil Rights Museum, and spend time bonding and reflecting on our service experiences as a group. 

    After the amazing experiences and memories this trip has brought me, I look forward to future opportunities to travel and serve both on my own and as a part of the St. Norbert College TRIPS Program.