Fellow Feature: Jan Dworschak

jan-dworschakLeadership Wisconsin Group XVII Fellow Feature

My name is Jan Dworschak and I live in Arcadia where I serve as a music minister for several area churches and provide piano and organ lessons.

I returned to my hometown in March 2010 to care for my mother when she returned home from the hospital on hospice care.  When she died in 2014, I was at her side and witnessed her graceful transition to eternity.  While caring for my mother, I continued to work part-time as a chaplain at our local hospital and nursing home.

During that time, a piano student and alumnus of Leadership Wisconsin, invited me to apply for the Signature Program. I wondered, Why me? Why now? As I learned more about the program and completed the application, a new question emerged, relevant both then and now. What do you think are the two greatest challenges facing your community?

The first challenge involves growing an economy that welcomes employees of immigrant background, assisting them on the path to citizenship and providing a living wage. Many immigrant employees and their families need support services to assist with language, educational opportunities, affordable housing and healthy ways to address the crippling effects of poverty.  The second challenge I have identified is related to the tension between the use of private and public land. Trempealeau County has an abundance of the sand used in the Frac sand industry. The question of the best use of land and water plays an important part in answering the question: Will Western Wisconsin maintain its scenic beauty, tourist attraction and allow for sand mining? It is a question I reflect on daily.

I feel a strong need to be involved in both of my community challenges. After reading an article in the local newspaper, I felt drawn to explore the issues around the sand mining question. Through the use of public hearings, reports on scientific studies and the request for a vote, the public engaged and continues to engage around this issue. Through Leadership Wisconsin, I have been able to learn from people around the state about land and water conservation and agricultural practices that promote good soil and animal health.

The deeper understanding of the land and water also led to an exploration of our most precious resource–people. I learned firsthand from folks have worked on the large dairies and industries. Their work spanned long, unrelenting shifts. Because of their immigrant status and other barriers, their ability to leverage basic worker rights faltered.

These concerns prompted me to strive to accomplish two related goals. The first is to protect our most important resource—people. Secondly, I wanted to involve people in protecting our land and water. As a result, I, along with other community members, launched an initiative named Composting and Recycling Champions on a Mission to Reduce Waste.  Though in its seminal stage, I feel a momentum beginning to build, as diverse groups of people come together to build our community and protect our most precious resources.

Could I have begun this without Leadership Wisconsin? Possibly. What I do know, however, is Leadership Wisconsin provided me the gift of friendship with fellows from across the state, availed me to clarifying seminars, introduced me to UW Extension, The Wisconsin Idea, and grew my leadership skills. Though I am older and grayer (some may even say, old and gray), I still have much to learn and I am enjoying each opportunity.

To all who made this Leadership Wisconsin Signature Program possible, I extend my heartfelt gratitude. I ask you to please do all you can to rediscover its benefits and promote it as together we develop leaders to strengthen communities.

Assist Jan’s leadership journey by becoming a Tuition Sponsor. Contact Leadership Wisconsin at (608) 263-0817.

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