BURLINGTON — When it comes to extracurricular activities, many high school students may choose to do one or two at a time. Others, like Emily Winker, take them all on.
As an 18-year-old senior at Burlington High School, there isn’t much that Winker hasn’t accomplished. She’s lent her talents to a range of different sports and leadership programs while in high school, such as basketball, the poms and dance teams, track and Burlington High School’s DRIVEN program.
DRIVEN is a leadership program at Burlington High School that students can apply to join once they become sophomores. In order to get accepted into the program, students must have recommendations from three of their teachers and at least a 3.5 GPA.
According to Matt Behringer, a math teacher and co-director of the DRIVEN program who has been teaching at Burlington High School for nine years, only about 10 percent of applicants are accepted.
Students who do become a part of the program help out with the freshman transition process and participate in community service opportunities. Recalling his experiences with Winker as a student leader involved with DRIVEN, Behringer describes her as a highly motivated and enthusiastic person.
“I met Emily as an incoming freshman. She applied to be in our DRIVEN program and was accepted right away,” Behringer said. “She’s one of the most helpful students that I’ve met in my nine-year teaching career.”
Winker cited DRIVEN as one of the biggest influences on her during her time at Burlington High School. As juniors and seniors, students in the program must create their own service projects. Last year during her junior year, Winker’s service project was to organize a Special Olympics basketball tournament.
“I basically had to organize the concession stand so the kids could have food throughout the day, and I had to put up posters and advertising about the tournament,” Winker said. “It was a lot of work, but it was well worth it.”
Overall, the tournament proved to be a success, with 26 different teams participating. Even though the event was not intended to be a fundraiser, students from the DRIVEN program ended up raising nearly $900 for the official Special Olympics organization.
Winker’s experiences with DRIVEN have helped her to decide on a career path in special education.
“It’s just one of those things that’s definitely my passion and I know that I want to pursue that whether it’s teaching or dealing with the Special Olympics,” Winker said.
Matt Nie, a speech and media teacher and adviser for the DRIVEN program at Burlington High School, also recognizes Winker’s strong passion for helping others, describing her involvement with the Special Olympics service project as “impressive.”
“She takes on the role of cheerleader, event leader, fundraiser and coordinator of other student leaders,” Nie said. “It’s influenced her to dedicate her career to helping Special Olympians and people with special needs.”
According to Nie, Winker’s dedication in helping the community has not only influenced her own decisions, but also has motivated others around her.
“She has a lot of people that feed off of her enthusiasm as well as her sense of civic duty,” he said.
Looking back to the time she’s spent at Burlington High School, Winker notes that while grades and final scores do matter, for her the most important thing is whether or not she’s learned a “deeper lesson” from those activities that she’s contributed to, and whether or not she’s given her all.
“It’s doesn’t matter whether you win the race or not, as long as you push yourself,” she said.