Silver Lake College student brings home lessons from the Student United Way in Panama City

Posted On November 01, 2016

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By Suzanne Weiss/Director of Public Relations

MANITOWOC, Wis. — Sophomore Abby Gallenberger’s quest for ways to improve the Silver Lake College Student United Way took her all the way to Panama City, in the Republic of Panama.

The Spanish-speaking city is located at the Pacific entrance of the famed Panama Canal in Central America.

“It was the first time I ever left the country,” said Gallenberger, who returned from the five-day trip in early October. “It was life-changing.”

Members from the Student United Way Panama Chapter invited her to participate in their largest fundraiser and board meeting after meeting her at a Student United Way Leadership Retreat in Washington, D.C.

“I helped out with their annual golf outing, which brings in over $30,000. Their Student United Way is the same size as ours, so there’s a definite possibility we could do one in Manitowoc,” Gallenberger said. “My intent is to one day get a golf outing started here and be able to contribute what we raise to United Way Manitowoc County’s annual campaign.”

Panama’s people were friendly and taught her some valuable lessons that she brought back with her.

“They told me not to focus on the money we bring in, but the activities we do in the community and social responsibility we take on,” Gallenberger said.

They also appreciate their members.

“You always want your members to feel important. Be thankful for what they do, let them know what they do is appreciated, and what they do makes a difference,” she said.

Gallenberger saw the strong connection the Student United Way in Panama has with its home office and plans to strengthen ties with the United Way Manitowoc County as a result.

Her visit taught her about their culture during as well.

“They’re proud of their people. They always say they’re Panamanian proud! I would love for our students to say, ‘We are Silver Lake proud,’” she said.

Gallenberger spent long days with the Panamanian group, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to return.

“I barely got any sleep. We were up at 5 a.m. and would work late into the night,” she said. “I’d love the chance to go back over Christmas break and work more in-depth with them.” 

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