Bryn Rademaker: Madame Sunshine

Year: Junior

Major: Elementary Education with a Middle Level Math Minor

Dream job: Math teacher and missionary in Africa



HC: What inspired you to become an RA? What were you most looking forward to?

BR: My mother! She’s always been my greatest inspiration and the best person to notice my gifts and talents, so once she first mentioned that I would make an above-average RA, I took it to thought and prayer. The thing I was most excited about was meeting and forming relationships with TONS of stellar freshmen. It made my heart so happy to think about serving and sharing my life experiences with incoming college students who were in need of direction and love.



HC: What sorts of responsibilities did you have and were there any in particular that were new to you?

BR: Many of my responsibilities included tending to the needs of my residents in any area you can think of: academic guidance/counsel; LOTS of mental and emotional support; answering questions about our campus resources; giving students as many opportunities as I could to become involved in campus activities, as well as Winona’s community; and simply making sure all of their emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical needs were being met. Amongst watching out for my kiddos, I had the blessing of working with a great staff by doing rounds and duty with them, monthly Health and Safety Checks, and putting on events for the residents of our combined floors. I also had the responsibility of a few administration tasks, such as creating and putting up new bulletin boards of facts and resources each month, keeping residents up-to-date on upcoming events and important information, etc.  

The most eye-opening and new experience I had being an RA was while doing rounds/on duty: I ran into a few interesting incidents and scenarios that I never would have thought in a million years I would be taking care of.



HC: What were some of your fondest memories as our RA? Would you recommend others to become one as well?

BR: My fondest memories ALL happened with my beautiful residents. Anytime one of them would show me unnecessary appreciation with a hug or written note, my heart would melt! Even simple conversations in the halls and getting to know each incredible soul on my floor made every single minute of my job as an RA worth it. I recall one of our events where we got together to sing karaoke and play Just Dance on the Wii—one of my favorite and most fun nights on the job! Although I loved fun activities during our floor events, nothing beat when residents knocked on my door just to say hi and spend some quality time in conversation with me. I’ll treasure those heart-to-hearts forever.



HC: Tell me about your travels to Africa and the Czech Republic—what were your experiences like? Would you ever go back to either of them in the future?

BR: There’s no possible way I could not write an entire BOOK about my experiences on mission to the Czech and Rwanda, so here’s my best effort to sum them up. I had the blessing of traveling to these two countries with an organization called FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, whom I hope to work for after graduation for a few years). Africa was a dream come true—literally! Ever since I became obsessed with The Lion King in kindergarten, my number one goal in life was to travel to Africa for vacation or missions work. I, along with 12 other students and missionaries from across the country, spent 3 unforgettable weeks in the country of Rwanda, mainly within the beautifully poor village of Kibeho. It was here that we spent each day teaching young students English through various hands-on activities and games, study-small groups, and song/dance. I fell in love the second we encountered these children for the first time—their smiles, utter JOY amidst the greatest poverty I’d witnessed, and pure generosity were the greatest gifts I have ever received in my life. I was able to find an indescribable passion and zeal to teach in a foreign country one day and to continue to share Christ with the entire world. I can promise you that I WILL be returning to Kibeho in the near future, hopefully to live there one day and fulfill the deepest dreams of my heart.  

My mission trip to the Czech Republic was also with FOCUS, so we engaged in a few similar activities during our trip such as daily mass and prayer, serving the poor, and educating young students about English and the Lord. This specific trip was difficult for me to experience, for it wasn’t as concrete to experience physical poverty as it was in Africa—this time I was working with people who had a great amount of spiritual poverty instead. We were able to share our faith with these people in a bold way by sharing our testimonies/personal stories, how we came to know Christ and be convicted of His love and mercy in our lives. My team of 18 and I also witnessed to homeless citizens on the streets of Prague, which was inspiring and beautiful to encounter helpless souls with love and comfort. The week I spent in the Czech Republic was one of the most challenging and humbling weeks of my life, but I wouldn’t take it back in a million years because of the relationships I formed, the stories I now have to tell, and the life lessons I learned in one simple week in Europe.



HC: Are there any other places in the world you would like to travel to someday either for a mission trip or for a personal vacay?

BR: I have a desire to vacation on the beautiful shorelines of Greece or take a pilgrimage to the Vatican in Rome, but ideally the only place I’d like to travel to and spend my time in once again is Africa—I wish to visit as many countries there as humanly possible, especially Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Tanzania.



HC: What inspired you to become a teacher and what are you most looking forward to? Where do you see yourself teaching?

BR: My entire life through my freshman year of college, I had no idea what career I wanted to end up in so I switched around between Marine Biology, Interior Design, Physician’s Assistant, and Nursing. My whole life was changed after spending an entire summer (between my freshman and sophomore year of college) working with students of all ages, teaching them a Catechetical program called Totus Tuus alongside 3 other awesome college students. We traveled across Wisconsin, running a sort of Vacation Bible School in 8 different cities; I fell in LOVE with the children and finally found my enthusiastic passion in teaching. In my future career of Elementary Education, I am most excited about being the adult in my students’ lives that they can trust and feel safe to ask and answer any question of their liking. In my wildest dreams, I see myself teaching math or religion in a foreign country for a few years before settling down to teaching middle school math in a western state like Colorado or Montana. I love the adventurousness of these states, and I wish to integrate travel and exploration into my classroom.



HC: What sorts of challenges (if any) have you faced and conquered as a student in the education program? How did you overcome those challenges?

BR: The biggest challenge I can think of is the transition from my pre-nursing classes to education classes—these two programs are very different, but as soon as I started taking the required classes for the education program, I knew I belonged there. I was able to overcome these challenges by making connections with my fellow classmates in these new education classes (which wasn't hard because they’re all wonderful people).



HC: What made you decide to study at Winona? What are some of your favorite places to hang out or eat at around town?

BR: The first time I toured here the summer before my junior year of high school, I FELL IN LOVE. I loved the campus feel, the buildings, the academics, and the aspect of Winona that topped me off is its recreational beauty. My absolute favorite place to hang is anywhere near the water: It brings me so much life when rollerblading or running around the gorgeous lakes, hiking near the rivers and creeks, and doing homework / chillin' at Levee Park near the Mississippi River. Besides outdoor recreational activities near water or hiking the bluffs, my heart has been captured by the OERC—Outdoor Education Recreation Center—where I’ve been rock-climbing nonstop with my roomies.



HC: You are well-known for your relentless positive attitude and beaming smile (peep the article title). How do you always find a way to focus on the good in a situation?

BR: In every single situation there always IS a good—our world was created for good, and we were created with goodness within us. My main motivation for seeking out the good comes from a continued growth in the knowledge of my identity and who I am;  I’ve come to realize and love that joy, and seeking out the good in people and situations doesn't necessarily take much practice for me; they were given to me as a gift to cherish and use. My family was a huge part of this realization as well, for I grew up with very little negativity in my childhood by being raised by two incredibly holy and loving parents.



HC: What is a piece of advice you would like to give to incoming underclassmen?

BR: BE PRESENT. Each moment is an absolute gift, and you’ll want college to just fly by because of all the challenges and experiences that you’ll feel “trapped” in. But this time in your life isn’t meant to wish away; it’s meant to be embraced with every fiber of your being!  Enjoy the little things, take time for yourself and your own loves, and stay away from the worldly things that keep your eyes from seeing the present moment as it is.



It was truly an honor to have you as my RA, Bryn, and I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of becoming an amazing teacher!