More than 8,000 miles from Wisconsin, Raechel Liska had the chance to visit a place where her grandfather once fought in a war - Vietnam.
Along with six other cadets from her ROTC unit, Liska, a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater student, spent the summer of 2012 in Hanoi, the capital city.
"We spent eight hours a day, five days a week teaching English to the Vietnamese Army while the weekends and weeknights were spent touring the city's historical landmarks," she said. "The beauty of exchanging cultures and embracing diversity made my experience beyond compare. Overall, the trip was absolutely amazing and simply breathtaking."
It's just one of the many academic, physical and social activities Liska remembers as she looks toward graduation day.
Commencement -- to be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 16, at Kachel Fieldhouse -- is the culmination of an impressive college career for Liska, a New Berlin native who will receive her bachelor's degree in sociology with a minor in leadership and military science.
At UW-Whitewater, Liska has embodied the Warhawk spirit of service, dedication and community.
A full-time student, she volunteers 40 hours per week with the Whitewater Rescue Squad as an EMT and has recently become a state-licensed firefighter.
In addition, Liska serves as the battalion commander in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps at UW-Whitewater.
Each year, the ROTC program ranks its nearly 6,000 cadets nationwide. This National Order of Merit List is reflective of students' grades, physical fitness and leadership. After her comprehensive review, Liska ranked in the top 10 percent of all cadets in the United States.
Last August, she had the honor of introducing and engaging with a U.S. Army major general who visited campus.
Liska is the winner of numerous awards and scholarships and her grades are beyond reproach. She is graduating with a perfect 4.0 GPA
After graduation, Liska plans to get her paramedic license and pursue a graduate degree in public health. She'd like to work in emergency management someday.
"I grew up with that volunteer attitude, to give something back to the community," she said.
And she's beyond excited to address her peers at commencement, an honor she won after a campuswide competition.
"It's a chance to say thank you to the professors and mentors who have offered guidance throughout our journeys," said Liska. "And to celebrate all of our achievements."