UWM military vet steers service ethic toward helping children

Nathan Derge spent four years in the Marine Corps and rose to the rank of corporal, then enrolled as a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political science major in the fall of 2014. He hopes to attend law school and parlay his degree into public service. But before that, he stayed true to his veteran’s ethic of service by volunteering with kids at an MPS elementary school.

What got you into volunteering?

I was in Film 150, which is a multicultural America class. They required service learning. I had no idea what it was. I started volunteering at Brown Street Academy, which is part of Milwaukee Public Schools. I gained a lot from it and just continued by myself once the class ended. They definitely enjoyed having student learners come in and take a couple of the kids and teach them. It helps them a lot.

What was your typical volunteer day there like?

I’d go in the morning. Brown Street is very interesting; it can get pretty chaotic at times. The kids were usually excited to see me. They get to know you. I helped them a lot with spelling and reading comprehension. We’d do spelling games, run through how to sound out words, pretty much elementary stuff.

How has this added to your UWM experience?

It’s really about the connection to the community, with UWM being in Milwaukee, and MPS, we have a pretty good partnership with them. Building that connection and being part of your community is really the main thing. UWM is home to everyone that goes here. But when you distance yourself from that, you’re not really contributing to your community; you’re taking away from it.

Do you think you’re going to continue volunteering?

Yeah. I’d probably change it up a little bit. I’d probably volunteer at legal clinics, provide free services for a couple hours during the week.

How does being a veteran influence your time here at UWM?

I serve as the veterans advocacy senator for the Student Association. I represent all of our veterans here. Having that leadership, you’re driven to make sure that there’s change happening, and that everyone is OK in your side of the house. I guess that does make a difference, especially when you know that there are people who need help out there. You don’t leave anybody behind. So, if people are struggling in the city, you each help him out.

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