Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of stories highlighting Concordia’s 2018 graduates.
With a family size that rivals the Duggars’ “19 Kids and Counting”, Aiden Gill is more than comfortable in a crowd.
The 21-year-old Concordia University Wisconsin student is one of 17 natural-born children of Milwaukee natives Wilson and Bonnie Gill. A twin and sixth in the line-up, Aiden has always had his pick of playmates and partners in crime.
So when it came to choosing a college, Aiden said it was important to find a place where he could be among people who shared his values and who cared about his academic and personal growth—a place that made him feel at home.
“Concordia has been a good fit for me,” says Aiden, who will join the 450 other undergraduates to cross Concordia’s commencement stage on Saturday. “I thought it’d be a difficult transition to go to college, but it wasn’t. Concordia’s been like my home away from home.”
The senior Justice and Public Policy major is in good company at Concordia, too. Even though most CUW students’ family counts wouldn’t even come close to qualifying for a TLC show, Concordians each share a passion and purpose that set them apart in the world and allow them to Live Uncommon.
For Aiden, that purpose came alive during his time at Concordia through service to others. As a peer leader for Professor Tracy Tuffey’s psychology class, and later, as a member of Concordia’s Psychology Club, Aiden has played an instrumental role in organizing some of the university’s most significant student-led service efforts.
Throughout his four years at Concordia, Aiden has helped spearhead several major service projects and has participated in dozens more. Some of the more significant efforts he’s been involved with include:
- A Host a Hero event on campus, where Concordia and HOPE Fidelis students honored dozens of veterans from the community with a lunch, a rousing reception line, and a video where students shared their thanks for the veterans’ sacrifices.
- A Heroin Symposium that welcomed hundreds of community members to hear from respected experts and learn more about how to combat the opioid crisis.
- A semester-long service effort called STREET SMART, which supported the Milwaukee food pantry Despensa de La Paz. Students involved with the effort collected thousands of items to be donated, including jars of peanut butter, shoes, plastic bags, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and clothing. Each Saturday in April, a different psychology class also spent the day volunteering at the pantry.
Aiden’s service resume and academic aptitude (he’ll graduate with honors) helped earn him this year’s Joseph G. Andritzky Justice Student of the Year Award, given annually to a CUW student majoring in Justice and Public Policy who demonstrates excellence in academics, co-curricular activities, and leadership abilities.
Following graduation, Aiden wants to continue making a difference for others, specifically those in his hometown of Milwaukee. He plans to stake out a career in law enforcement and hopes to land a job with the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office.
“I want to make a change in Milwaukee, my hometown,” Aiden says. “Law enforcement is a profession where service to the public is a natural part of the job. The service projects I was involved with at Concordia helped cultivate that spirit of service within me, and I’m certain I’ll carry that with me as I begin my career.”
On Saturday, as Aiden crosses the commencement stage, his family will be in the audience celebrating his milestone – all 16 of his siblings, plus his parents and his two grandparents. With only six commencement tickets allotted to each graduate, it was a task for Aiden to find enough friends to hand over their unused seats.
“Everyone was on social media posting about how they needed one or two more tickets and I was like, ‘Yeah, I need 13,’” Aiden laughed.
From service at Concordia to serving Milwaukee, Aiden is eager to find his career fit and continue extending Christ-like care to others. After all, service is what he does best. He’s always been a part of something bigger than himself.
— Kali Thiel is director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-243-2149.
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