Maggie Fangmann (center) and Markell (right) at Our Next Generation.
Maggie Fangmann (center) and Markell (right) at Our Next Generation.
After bagging manna packs, UW-Milwaukee students placed them into cardboard banana boxes on pallets for distribution.
After bagging manna packs, UW-Milwaukee students placed them into cardboard banana boxes on pallets for distribution.

UWM student Fangmann committed to making a difference

In the age of selfies, one local college student stands out for being selfless. UW-Milwaukee sophomore Maggie Fangmann has clocked over 150 volunteer hours in the last year and a half alone.  

Fangmann grew up in Milwaukee near the zoo. She first began volunteering at her family’s parish serving communion, organizing prayer services and baking cookies for nuns. In high school, she started a volleyball recreation league, coached track and tutored elementary students.

"My parents have instilled volunteering in me," said Fangmann. "I’ve been given a lot, so it’s important for me to give back."

Becoming a Milwaukee Panther didn’t change Fangmann's drive to help others. She uses her breaks from studying kinesiology and psychology classes to serve her community.

During her first semester, she started working with Our Next Generation, an after-school program providing academic tutoring and social support to Milwaukee youth. Fangmann was paired with a third-grader, Markell.

"A lot of these students don’t have someone consistent in their life," said Fangmann. "For an hour each week I can forget about whatever is going on in my life. Who cares about physics, I’m going to hang out with Markell, play hangman, read and just talk to him."

Fangmann continued working with Markell for three semesters until a class conflict no longer allowed time in her schedule.

Lake Valley Camp and the Pan-African Community Association are two additional mentoring programs to which Fangmann has volunteered her leadership, social and academic skills in the past year.   

"Knowing that I’m playing a role in motivating and helping them reaching their greatest potential and just seeing the progress the kids make is really cool," said Fangmann.  

But she does more than tutor Milwaukee’s youth. In the last two years, Fangmann has also participated in the UW-Milwaukee Alternative Spring Break Trip, a week-long community service trip to Asheville, N.C. This spring she served as a team leader.

"Maggie was a great asset to the Alternative Spring Break Trip 2015 planning team," said Samantha Bickert, a graduate assistant for Leadership Programs at UWM. "She is a very reliable young woman who is constantly smiling and always has a positive attitude while working with others."

Fangmann said she led team activities and icebreakers, and facilitated reflection sessions after a day of service.  

"We were the energizers," explained Fangmann. "We were there to get people amped up."

One service day Fangmann particularly enjoyed was at Manna FoodBank.

"We made manna packs in an assembly line ... granola bars, chicken noodle soup, peaches ... all kid-friendly foods that don’t need a stove," said Fangmann.

The team of UW-Milwaukee students packaged 2,720 manna packs and 2,937 pounds of pinto beans in two days. North Carolina’s Manna FoodBank distributes 4,333 of the packs each week.

Also in North Carolina, UWM students served at the Veterans Restoration Quarters and transplanted blueberry bushes at a local farm.

"Alternative Spring Break really opened my eyes to the problems we are facing as a country," said Fangmann. "What’s cool is relating what we did in North Carolina to what’s going on in Milwaukee."

A local problem that has drawn Fangmann's attention is homelessness. According to Wisconsin’s 2013 Homeless Management Information System report, 43 percent of Wisconsin’s homeless live in Milwaukee and Dane Counties.

To help those in need, she volunteered at the St. Hyacinth Food Pantry before the holiday season.

"I was directing people through each room," explained Fangmann. "There was a room for clothing, a room for medical assistance with a registered nurse, and then a room to get pre-packaged boxes of food."

Fangmann remembered it being cold outside. It was the late fall, early winter season. She watched as a little girl and her mother tried on coats. A volunteer reminded the visitors that donations only covered one coat per family. She watched as the little girl said, "You take the coat, mom."

When asked about this moment, Fangmann’s eyes filled with tears.

"I was standing there, trying not to cry because of all the things I’ve taken for granted. This little girl," said Fangman. "She can’t even get a coat."

Fangmann’s outstanding volunteer service and dedication to helping the community has led UWM’s Center for Community-Based Learning, Leadership and Research to offer her a paid internship. She now drives students to volunteer sites and helps record their service hours for a service recognition program.

"Her dedication to serving not only the Milwaukee community, but the students of UWM will carry on in her future through her genuine nature," said Bickert.

As for Fangmann’s future, she said she plans to become a pediatric physical therapist.

"I feel like working with kids is where the most impact can be made. They’re our next generation. Whatever help I can be to them, to make them better, so that they can make each other better, they can make our community and our future better."

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