Life’s Journey Begins in High School

Andrew John Plath
3 min readJul 10, 2023

I was thinking of this photo the other day after road construction on Wausau’s Bridge Street caused me to take my Trek Domane past Wausau West HIgh School. When this photo was taken, me, Denise Madigan, Alice de Jong, and Linda Lewis were serving terms as officers of the Wausau West High School Student Council for the year.

At the time, our school would have been just 5 years old. As I looked around while riding past the school two weeks ago, I thought about how much has changed since high school at Wausau West High School. Trees and houses have sprung up in the neighborhood of Wausau West. All of my high school friend and acquaintances have grown up and moved on to do great things.

My service in the Student Council, particularly as President taught me many things. For one, if you want change, you have to work for it to make that change happen. The word that I would eventually learn the meaning of is apathy. At the beginning of my term, a teacher came up to me in the Commons and warned me about that. The 70s was the “Me Decade” in which most had given up the thought of changing society for the better. The civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s were in the past, and American society had gotten to be more hedonistic in some ways. I would have learned hard lessons by the end of the year in 1975.

Two of the gals on my right, as far as I know of, would grow up to have challenging careers. Denise Madigan, the top honor student in the Class of 1975, would become an attorney specializing in Family Law. Alice de Jong, a talented singer, would follow her first love and currently is a Minister of Music at Graceway Presbyterian Church in Leesburg, Florida.

I would find myself in public service later on in life. As a somewhat avid cyclist I eventually found myself serving on a bike and pedestrian sub-committee of the Wausau Area Metropolitan Planning organization and later on the City of Wausau’s Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Prior to that, I was hearing complaints from long distance cyclists who were riding through Wausau on self-supported tours. A lot of complaints had to be addressed. Master plans had to be implemented and a route system needed to be established.

Communities were moving forward with developing networks of shared-use paths. For the City of Wausau, that meant the River Edge Walkway which had, in at least on segment, existed since the 1970s. That is being extended both north and south today.

Motivating people to get things done by oneself is never an easy thing without getting surrounded by likeminded people. I liked working with civil engineers and planners. They have talent for showing how changes can be made.

I liked the motto I once heard from Robert F. Kennedy. “Some men see things as they are and see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say “why not.”



Andrew John Plath

Alumnus from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, Photographer and writer.