Rhinelander grad finds motivation to excel, help others
By Eileen Persike
The driving distance from Rhinelander to the nation’s capital is 1,035 miles. But for one 2011 Rhinelander High School graduate, Washington D.C. is a million miles from where he, at one time, could have ever imagined he would be.
Will Fath is working this summer as a policy intern for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. In the fall, he will return to Louisiana State University where he will finish a Masters of Public Administration degree, specializing in budgeting and economics. While his internship and master’s degree certainly set Fath apart from many area students who further their education, it’s how he got there and where he started that may be the most surprising.
“I was raised by a single mother with few resources and poor health,” Fath said. “It was hard to find a lot of motivation being from a low-income family and thinking that was how my life would always be.”
Statistics indicate that disadvantaged children can have a tougher time achieving than their affluent counterparts. According to the American Psychological Association, disadvantaged children and teens are at risk for negative outcomes such as behavior problems, anxiety and depression, and dropping out of school.
“I want to put myself in a position where I am able to help others from low-income families have the opportunity to go out and achieve their dreams.” Will Fath
When he was in high school Fath said his goal was just to graduate. He participated in wrestling, football and FBLA and worked a couple of part-time jobs. At some point after high school, he realized that he “didn’t want to be stuck in a life that didn’t make (him) happy,” and decided to make a change.
Fath graduated from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in May, 2016, with a Bachelor of Science degree in political science and a minor in law and policy. While at Oshkosh, Fath interned at the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, was a student senator on the campus Student Association, treasurer for the UW Oshkosh College Democrats and worked for the Department of Residential Life.
Fath’s mother Barb Scheeler said she is very proud of him.
“Will had an extremely difficult childhood,” Scheeler said. “He fought through a lot of challenges and took control of his life.”
She also credits her sister and brother-in-law who live and work in Washington D.C. for guiding Will the past few years. It’s their influence, not hers, Scheeler said, is why her son is where he is today.
“My mother was amazing and did the most that she could to help me grow, but at a young age I was working hard to make a lot of things happen on my own,” said Fath. “This independence helped force me to be strong, resilient and creative in making things work out.”
Despite having success as an undergrad, attending graduate school wasn’t initially on Fath’s radar.
“I had a supervisor at UW-Oshkosh who signed me up for interviews with graduate programs and next thing I knew I was on a plane to Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas and New York searching for my next school,” Fath recalled. “As for why I decided to go to LSU, I would say that Rhinelander is a lot of things, but diverse it is not, and that’s something I wanted for the future and my own personal growth.”
Initially believing the circumstances in which he was raised did not prepare him for success, now looking back, Fath said the struggles and hard times prepared him greatly for the real world.
Spending his days this summer on Capitol Hill writing memos, collecting senators’ signatures, researching cyber security and helping with administrative tasks may not have been Fath’s dream job 10 years ago, or one that acquaintances would have imagined he’d have, it’s right where he wants to be.
“I would say because of the situation that I was raised in, people would be surprised that I am where I am today,” Fath said. “But the people who are close to me would be anything but surprised; they knew my involvement and interest and know how bad I wanted to be here and how happy I am that I am here.”
A long-term goal, Fath said, is to return to Washington D.C. and work in public service in some capacity.
“There were a lot of things that I was able to do because of the public service of others,” said Fath. “I would not have been able to afford college or have health care. I want to put myself in a position where I am able to help others from low-income families have the opportunity to go out and achieve their dreams, whatever they may be.”