creating opportunities AND championing education

| Judy Berthiaume

As he was growing up in northeastern Wisconsin, it was no secret that Sergei Raspel was a little different from many of his classmates. Born in Russia, Sergei moved to the United States as a young boy after being adopted by an American couple. But being a Russian-American living in Wisconsin wasn’t the only thing that set him apart from his peers.

Sergei was diagnosed with ADHD, a disorder that created many issues for him in school. He excelled academically but often was told his future was limited because of his ADHD. Eventually, Sergei says, he came to see his ADHD as something to be celebrated because it’s part of what makes him his own unique self. He now wants to be a teacher so he can give kids who fall outside the norm a different kind of classroom experience, one that will help them understand that being themselves is good enough.

Now a sophomore elementary education major at UW-Eau Claire, Sergei already is making a difference in the lives of area youth. As a mentor in the Blugold Beginnings program, he goes into schools to give elementary-age students learning experiences in science, technology, engineering, art and math. He’s also a counselor in the program’s summer camps for middle schoolers. Sergei’s high energy, enthusiasm and willingness to be silly — all things that got him into trouble as a child — now are helping him connect with young students as he gets them excited about learning as well as about their futures.

Most importantly, he says, he encourages every student to be comfortable with who they are, whatever that might look or feel like. With his “equal opportunities for all” motto, he’s helping area youth dream big and chase their dreams. Sergei is inspired by the atmosphere he’s found at UW-Eau Claire, a community where people accept him for who he is. His professors are both patient and encouraging, which is helping Sergei see his potential for service and leadership in education. When he graduates, Sergei hopes to teach and coach in an inner city middle school. Someday, he’d like to be in a position where he can influence education policy. As a future educator and a mentor through Blugold Beginnings, Sergei Raspel is creating opportunities AND championing education ... and that’s pretty powerful!

Photo caption: Sergei Raspel, a sophomore education major, teaches a Blugold Beginnings STEM class at an Eau Claire elementary school.