“Mr. Gordy made me see that I had a unique and interesting perspective of my own to share. He was someone I could bounce ideas off without giving me a definitive answer—forcing me to choose for myself what was really important.” 

Madeline “Maddy” Ickes came into her senior year at Logan High School with what she believed was a solid plan for applying to colleges. She had been a high-achieving student and carefully lined up her options, many of which were smaller, competitive schools. What she thought was a straightforward process soon became a stressful one. In all, she applied to 16 schools and the option she chose has taken further than she had imagined when she started. In August, Maddy Ickes began an innovative international program in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. 

“When I first met with [Future Center Advisor] Mr. Gordy, I found out I wasn’t as advanced as I needed to be my senior year,” she said. “At the very beginning, he helped build up my confidence in being a competitive applicant. When you are applying to top schools, you fear your application isn’t as competitive as others.”

She would eventually get offers from nine schools but not her top two schools. “It was a bit of a roller coaster, so Mr. Gordy provided a lot of emotional support.” she said. “One day, I thought I was going to one college. The next day I thought I was going to another. Things got a little crazy when I was offered a full ride in Abu Dhabi. My parents panicked a little bit. But six minutes before the deadline to accept the offer, I made it official.” 

The only time Maddy had ever traveled abroad was for the candidate interview for the program in Abu Dhabi, which is run by New York University (NYU Abu Dhabi). But international education had always been a strong area of interest. The opportunity to study abroad on a program with an international focus was too good to pass up, especially with the significant financial aid.  

“Eventually, I would like to attend law school and become a human rights attorney or something with constitutional law,” she said. “I am interested in improving girls’ access to education internationally.” 

An experience with the Rotary Interact Club led Maddie to first explore access to education issues. The club completed a project that involved packing meals for children in Nicaragua, a poverty-stricken country. Through that experience and her own personal research, she learned that many kids in Nicaragua are driven out of school and into the labor force at a young age due to poverty. Her initial basic awareness soon grew into deeper exploration of the issue. “I chose to study in the Middle East because, to address a problem, you have to fully understand the problem. And I fear I would not have gotten as full of a perspective as studying in a region where women’s rights is a bigger issue,” she said. 

In addition to being Co-President of the Interact Club, she was a National Honor Society President, and was active in orchestra, playing the string bass in three ensembles (Logan High School orchestra, La Crosse Youth City Orchestra, and the Wisconsin State Orchestra.) 

She thoroughly enjoyed her time in Logan, having open-enrolled in the school. She found attentive teachers, a strong selection of courses, and a wide variety of available activities. And there is also something most schools don’t have, she said: a Future Center. With all those resources, she believed she could go anywhere after graduation.

“Without the Future Center, this process would have been a lot more challenging. I would not have had the confidence to apply to some of the more selective schools I did,” she said. “In the end, I felt very prepared, which I don’t think is what most students say. With college essays for example, I was writing about what I thought admissions people wanted to read about. Mr. Gordy prepped me for so many interviews. I had never formally interviewed before for anything in my life. I had phone interviews and skype interviews and even an interview in a museum.”

As Maddy embarks on her international program, she is most looking forward to the relationships she will build with students and faculty from all over the world, as she dives deeper into government, political science, and legal studies. 

With high school behind her and many exciting journeys ahead, her advice for students coming up is to never be afraid to ask for help as a way to not only reduce your stress but to build your confidence.  

“Mr. Gordy made me see that I had a unique and interesting perspective of my own to share. He was someone I could bounce ideas off without giving me a definitive answer—forcing me to choose for myself what was really important.”