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Wartburg College Senior Receives 2019 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award

From the thousands of graduating seniors who have participated in Miracle Network Dance Marathon at the approximately 300 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada, twenty students were selected to receive the 2019 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award for making an exceptional impact within their Dance Marathon program, on their individual campus and for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. To see all of this year’s recipients, click here

Hometown: Eldridge, Iowa

Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry with minors in Leadership and Spanish

Dance Marathon Involvement: During my four years of involvement in Wartburg College Dance Marathon, I personally fundraised a total of $2,983.86 for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and served as a dancer and the Co-Executive Director from 2017-2019.

Campus/Community Involvement: Academically and Civically Engaged Scientist (ACES) Scholar; Baldwin Leadership Fellow; Undergraduate Research Fellow; Physics and Chemistry Demo Show: K-12 STEM Outreach (Chemistry Club); Supplemental Instructor/TA for Organic Chemistry I/II; GEP/Bioinformatic Teaching Assistant; Anatomy Dissector/Lab Assistant; First-Year Orientation Leader; Wartburg College Ambassador; Service Trips participant in Fall 2015 (Omaha, NE), Spring 2018 (Wilmington, NC), Spring 2019 (Little Rock, AR); Volunteer at North Star Community Services in Waverly, Iowa; Waverly Health Center Volunteer in the Emergency Room.

Nick Arp conducting original biochemical research at Wartburg College.

Awards/Recognition: Academically and Civically Engaged Scientist Scholarship ($40,000); Phi Eta Sigma (First-Year Honor Society)–one year as historian and one year as the Induction chair on Executive Team; Alpha Chi (Junior/Senior Honor Society); Beta Beta Beta (Biology Honor Society); Sigma Delta Pi (Spanish Honor Society); Institutional Goldwater Scholar Nominee for Wartburg College; Gould Fellow for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Summer Research Program 2018; 2018 Wartburg College Homecoming King; Debbie E. Heida Award for Leadership and Service at Wartburg College (2019); Dell Award for Peace and Justice at Wartburg College (2019); Outstanding Senior in Biochemistry at Wartburg College (2019).

Post-Graduation Plans: In the summer of 2019, I will be joining the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), a National Institute of Health funded combined MD-PhD program, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to become a physician-scientist with hopes to advance medicine and scientific knowledge through clinically-relevant research.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

A glowing, innocent smile would greet me when I would walk through the door of my house after a long day of school. This child, with his glowing smile, never failed to impart some of his genuine happiness onto me even when times were not the best. His smile was presented in a gold 8×10 frame on the shelf. With an ill grandmother living in the house, as an early teenager, I would often be responsible for tasks that were atypical for a 13-year-old. My parents would ask me to organize and dispense her medication, exchange her dirty commode water, or stay home in order for me to take care of her. Yet, when I would get frustrated as I would head to the kitchen to get my grandmother’s applesauce for the third time that day, that glowing, innocent smile of the child in the gold frame would help relieve any sort of frustration that was building up. Who is this child that welcomes me each time I pass through the hallway? This child is my cousin, Alex.

Alex DeVrieze (04/09/1987-11/25/90) diagnosed with medulloblastoma.

Unfortunately, I never got to meet him in person. I have only encountered my cousin through this gold frame. On November 25th, 1990, Alex lost his battle to pediatric cancer. Before I arrived in this world, a series of unfortunate events turned my family’s world upside down. Alex was three years old when he began to show symptoms of a serious illness. My aunt and uncle brought him to the local university hospital to receive the care needed for his diagnosis. Over the course of many grueling months of battling his cancer, Alex was not victorious. This event put an everlasting imprint on my cousins, my aunt and uncle, my parents, and my grandparents. Alex has brought me joy from his contagious smile, but if his smile is so infectious still today, I can only imagine the joy he brought my family when he was around. Cancer is the one to blame. Cancer is the one who immortalized his smile into a photo in a frame. Cancer is the cause of the pain and many sleepless nights for my family. As a product of older parents, I realize that there are years of events and experiences that my parents and family members have had when I was not around to experience them for myself. Yet, the impact of Alex’s loss has continued to ripple into my life. Every time an illness like cancer is brought up in conversation, the obvious wounds are still present in my family as I sit there removed from the direct experiences that they all suffered. In high school, I discovered a philanthropic organization called Dance Marathon that allowed me to observe the impacts of pediatric cancer on children and their families. This is the part that I never experienced my own family go through. Dance Marathon continued to be a crucial part of my life as I began college and eventually my love for the organization led me into a leadership role as the Co-Executive Director for WCDM. Thus, WCDM allows me to be an advocate for children like my late cousin, Alex.

What personal accomplishment/contribution are you most proud of from your involvement in Dance Marathon?

When I joined Wartburg College Dance Marathon (WCDM) as a first-year student, l noticed the passion that students at Wartburg College had for the kids at our local CMN Hospital. There was a great sense of advocacy that students owned and shared with their friends and family. I vividly remember the cheers and tears when our college displayed the tote board totals of $55,016.88 and $81,850.00 for my first two-years as a dancer. This large jump in fundraising total was evident that the movement was on an upward trend. It was something that I wanted to help build. I was approached as a rising-junior to take on the role of Co-Executive Director for WCDM10. This role was always occupied by a fourth-year student. However, the Executive team would be graduating 14 of the 15 members. So, I felt that with my passion and strategic thinking, I would help continue WCDM on this upward trajectory. During my junior year, I worked tirelessly to rebrand and redefine WCDM to express the importance of our year-long efforts for the children at the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Immediately, I could see an effective change in the type of students recruited to participate in WCDM. They had a clear understanding of the organization’s mission and the role of being a dancer. I implemented All-Dancer Meetings that occur every month. Since its implementation, the most recent All-Dancer Meeting exceeded 120 students (35% of our registrants). I believe that I have successfully motivated the campus for a year-long commitment to Dance Marathon. In turn, this has resulted in continuous fundraising success at Wartburg College. For a program of ~340 students and a campus of 1,498 students, WCDM has raised $115,190.10 in 2017-2018 and $153,307.11 in 2018-2019 under my leadership including the past four 24-hour Push Days raising over $21,000, $28,000, $28,000, and $38,000, respectively.

Nick Arp thanking families, executive team, morale captains, and dancers after the tote board reveal for WCDM11.

How has Dance Marathon impacted you as a student leader? What specific skills have you developed during your involvement?

Wartburg College Dance Marathon has helped develop and refine my leadership style. As the Co-Executive Director, I was responsible for helping to lead the strategic planning for the organization as well as set the tone for the leadership team. In my leadership studies, I have learned about the ‘mirror effect’ in leadership. The leader is the dependent factor that sets the tone and attitudes of the followership. Therefore, WCDM has taught me crucial people management skills and the importance of cohesive team dynamics. As a leader, I needed to be able to effectively communicate with my team members to establish this tone. Prior to my role of Co-Executive Director, I did not realize the importance of team bonding. However, I quickly learned that for a team to be effective in their tasks, they must understand how to work with one another. In times of stress, which is very much the case in a Dance Marathon program, tensions can get high, but the establishment of a cohesive team dynamic will allow individuals to feel as if they can express their feelings openly and honestly, which, in turns, allows the team to grow together.

Nick Arp and Connor Frerichs, Co-Executive Directors of WCDM11.

How have you seen your Dance Marathon’s fundraising make an impact at your local CMN Hospital?

WCDM has been fortunate to see the direct impact of our fundraising totals at the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. In 2018, UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital provided WCDM with a direct funding opportunity. WCDM fully funded the programing at the hospital’s Safety Store. The Safety Store provides safety equipment (at cost) for community members, educational programing for first-time parents on safety protocols for newborns and infants, outreach programing for local children about ATV and bike safety, and more. Wartburg College is located in small-town Iowa and programing such as the ATV outreach directly benefits rural communities. There are students on our campus who have lost loved ones to ATV accidents. WCDM prides itself for its advocacy for child health and its emphasis of injury prevention as a means to improve child health in our communities.

Why should students get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus?

Students should get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon programs on their campus because it allows students to make an impact on the lives of others while, often, on their own academic journey to enter careers with the same goal – the goal to help others. Why wait to enter the workforce to work on this goal? Miracle Network Dance Marathon programs allows students to impact the lives of children and their families. In addition, participants learn about the importance of philanthropy and the concept of giving back to their communities.

Nick Arp on stage at WCDM11 Big Event.
Nick Arp with his summer research poster at the 32nd Annual MIT Summer Research Programs Poster Session.

Miracle Network Dance Marathon is an international movement, involving over 400 colleges, universities and K-12 schools across North America that fundraise for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since its inception in 1991, Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $250 million–ensuring that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

Learn more about Miracle Network Dance Marathon:

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