MARQUETTE, Mich.—Each semester of the 2018-19 academic year, Northern Michigan University Athletics will highlight nine different student-athletes or stories for their significance on and off the playing surface. The features are due to be released approximately every two weeks in accordance with the corresponding athletic seasons. Each feature will touch on student-athletes and their interesting and unique journeys at Northern Michigan University.
In the eighth edition of the series, NMU Athletics highlights Maggie Vaitkus of the NMU Women's Swim & Dive team.
Being from urban Munster, Indiana near Chicago, Vaitkus did not grow up in a place where nature was as valued as it is in the Marquette community. Part of what drew her to Northern Michigan was the opportunity to explore her interest in the natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula.
Looking to gain more knowledge and experience after her freshman year, Vaitkus explored opportunities in conservation to pass the summer. She managed to find multiple opportunities that gave her more than she expected.
"I began the summer with an apprenticeship at Warren Dunes State Park" Vaitkus said of how her summer began. "I worked on with a doctor in scouting, graphing, and educating high school students on garlic mustard which is an invasive species."
Despite the valuable educational experience, Vaitkus had already applied and been accepted as a counselor at a local summer camp. However, the camp did not start until June which left her with some time for the apprenticeship.
"After [the apprenticeship], I worked at Camp Crosley YMCA as a camp counselor," added Vaitkus about her summer experiences. "The senior program director, Priscilla Brown, was nice enough to let me design and implement a wildlife education program."
Vaitkus provided more than just wildlife education during her time as a camp counselor. The children at the camp suffered from diabetes, hemophilia, or sickle cell disease. She received a week of training for how to prepare and react for any potential health concerns during the duration of the camp.
"The things that I learned this summer in terms of patience and responsibility; this camp's four core values are caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility," Vaitkus added of what the experience taught her. "Every situation boils down to those four things. If you have that, you can be a good person."
In the pool, Vaitkus earned All-America honors as a member of the 20-yard medley relay. She swam the final leg of the event in the finals at the NCAA Division II Championships where the group finished eighth in one minute, 42.80 seconds. She also helped guide the 200-yard medley relay team to a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship last season.
Vaitkus is studying Wildlife Management at NMU with a focus in the University's new law enforcement concertation. She is also double majoring in Spanish. Eventually, she would like to become a conservation officer when she graduates.