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Staff Spotlight: Josh Ludke

June 21

Man helping student with clay on a clay wheelJosh Ludke started with Wisconsin Youth Company 22 years ago, and is one of the organization’s most seasoned summer employees. He has held multiple roles in various summer programs and during more recent years, you’ve probably seen him at Middle School U. Josh brings creativity and adventure to MSU through his instruction of art and nature classes, and various off-site courses like Bus Stops Here and Art Around Town. It is clear Josh loves working with students and they love learning from him. His calm demeanor and positive attitude help everyone feel comfortable creating in his presence.

Q1: When did you start teaching with MSU and what has been your favorite memory from working at Wisconsin Youth Company so far?

I’ve been with WYC since about 2000. I started out with Wander Wisconsin as a trip leader and gradually moved over to teaching MSU courses for about the past 10 years.

I have had the joy and honor of being part of so many incredible adventures with both Wander and MSU. I’ve taken kids hiking on the edge of cliffs in the Porcupine Mountains, encountered bears and many other creatures in the Apostles, and helped thousands of kids set up camp, cook over fire, and just enjoy the outdoors.

Now that I have my own daughter, those camping adventures continue with her and I’ve switched over to leading adventures closer to home with MSU. I’m super excited for next year when she’ll finally be old enough to join an MSU class!

One of my favorite MSU memories is the “The Bus Stops Here” class. I’ve run the class probably six or seven times and each time it’s a different adventure! The idea is to teach the ability to navigate safely and efficiently using the city bus system. Students are given a budget and guided through the process of planning daily trips to places they want to go around Madison. By the end of the week, students have their summer bus pass and are ready to plan and have their own adventures!

Q2: What is the most important thing you learned as a child that still applies today?

As a child, I was blessed with a lot of time to wander our little town of Almena, Wisconsin. I remember getting off the hour-long bus ride with my plans for the evening’s football game at the park, or which church parking lot we would skateboard at, or maybe we would go catch crayfish in Lightning Creek. We learned to make our own fun with whatever we had.

Q3: Who was a mentor you looked up to when you were younger? Why did you look up to them?

I find it hard to narrow down the people I looked up to growing up, but I had a friend whose dad Tom I always remembered as smiling and finding joy in life. He was always game for helping us build a skateboard ramp, or helping us out with whatever adventures we were having.

Q4: What is your favorite part about working with kids?

Probably my favorite thing about this work is having the opportunity to facilitate and guide people through first-time experiences, sharing in the joy of finding success, and of working through challenges. These experiences — no matter how big or small — help us build faith in ourselves that we can carry with us throughout our life.

Say “hi” to Josh next time you see him!