Each summer, I enjoy seeing photos from all of my coworkers and friends’ vacations to fun and exotic locales including New York City, Las Vegas, Chicago or Italy. So when I tell them I am spending my week of vacation in luxurious Wayne, Nebraska, I generally receive a look of confusion or sympathy.
However, I wouldn’t trade my week of vacation in Wayne for any of those other destinations.
Next week, I will return to Wayne for my 15th summer serving as a member of the Volunteer Staff for the Launch Summer Leadership Workshop. During the five days of Workshop, the Wayne State campus is transformed into a special place where junior high and high school students explore leadership concepts, learn who they are as a leader and make friends with hundreds of students from across the state (and beyond).
Workshop is my favorite week of the year and one I look forward to each summer with the same anticipation of Christmas morning. But why do I keep going back year after year? Why do I use my valuable vacation time to eat chicken patties, sleep on murphy beds and participate in dance parties every morning at 9 a.m.? I keep going back for the reward of seeing a group of random strangers progress over the week, who are transformed into confident friends who have discovered they have the talent and passion to make a difference in their schools and communities. Watch the embedded video to see some of the activities we do during the week - and look for a special cameo by yours truly at the 45 second mark.
On a personal level, Workshop isn’t just an amazing week for the students. It energizes me to attack the daily challenges of life. I get to work in a positive, open and accepting environment with some of my closest friends and make the world a better place.
As an added bonus this year, I will also be attending my first Workshop as part of the Firespring family. Firespring and Launch have a great symbiotic relationship. Firespring is very supportive of Launch’s mission to promote and develop youth leadership. Even the name Firespring resonates on another level with me. At Workshop, one of our mottos is to “Keep the Fire,” where the Fire is the drive that makes you want to be the best you can be.
It will also be great to not have to explain where I am going on vacation and why I will be more exhausted when I return than prior to the week away from work. Everyone at Firespring is familiar with Launch and Workshop and is supportive of what we do. In fact, I will be spending next week with my boss (Randy Hawthorne) and my boss’s boss (Jay Wilkinson) along with a couple other Firespringers (Ben Spence and Matt Spitsen).
Firespring’s support of Launch doesn’t just extend to one week during the summer. When Firespring moved to its new facility less than two years ago, Jay made sure to include Launch in the building plans and provided Launch with our first-ever dedicated office space. We’ve hosted our quarterly all-staff meetings at Firespring as well as many of our One-Day Workshops. Jay has been one of our biggest backers and helped the organization grow to where it is today—one of the premier youth leadership development organizations in Nebraska.
In a way, working at Firespring feels very much like the time I put in with Launch. In fact, there are quite a few Launch-like qualities to working at Firespring. People genuinely care about what they are doing and are passionate about their job. Creativity is boundless as we try to figure out new ways to solve problems. I enjoy socializing with my coworkers after the work is done (and sometimes a little before).
So while my friends are off seeing the bright lights, sights and scenic beaches, I will be hanging out with my friends trying to spread a little fire in Wayne, America. And I couldn’t think of a place I would rather be.