TA News

Maddison Wilhite ’13 Builds on TA Traditions

Maddison Wilhite, Thetford Academy Class of 2013, believes she might be TA’s biggest fan–her classmates thought so, voting her the student with the “Most School Spirit” in her senior year. Wilhite’s family (originally from western Nebraska) moved around “a ton” before settling in Thetford in 2007. At TA, she found community, mentors, and lifelong friends. 

Everything she has accomplished in the ten years since her TA graduation, Wilhite says, can be traced back to a foundational experience at Thetford Academy. After high school, she enrolled at South Dakota State University, following in the footsteps of her brother Taylor (Class of 2012). She was looking for a “big school experience” and entered college as a biology major on a pre-med track.

It was former Thetford Academy PE teacher and longtime Thetford EMT Robin Pettingell’s Sports Medicine course that inspired Wilhite’s interest in the health sciences. Pre-med wasn’t quite the right fit, though, and she made a switch to Exercise Science and Athletic Training in her Freshman year. A curious and talented student, Wilhite continued to branch out from the health sciences to include other passions and interests in her studies.

For example, in 2014 Wilhite applied and was accepted to a 5-week intensive Spanish program in Guatemala (shout out to Senora Brettell!). After studying Spanish five hours each day, she found time to put her sports medicine skills to work, signing up to volunteer at a rural women’s clinic. She followed Guatemala with a semester studying abroad in Costa Rica at Universidad Veritas and volunteered at a cancer support center there. 

By the time Wilhite was ready to graduate from South Dakota State, she had earned a double major in Global Studies and Spanish, and a double minor Biology and Health Sciences. Every step of the way, she was engaged in community service, an ethos she credits to Thetford Academy’s commitment to service learning and participation in Operation Day’s Work. Looking ahead, a service experience like the Peace Corps seemed to be her logical next step. 

Wilhite eventually chose to serve closer to home, settling on Americorps Vista and a capacity building position with the Native American Development Corp (NADC). Founded in 1996 in Billings, Montana, NADC started with a mission to help the area’s Native American community combat poverty through entrepreneurship, economic empowerment, and cultural advocacy. The organization has, Wilhite says, expanded its scope–and staff–exponentially since then. 

Today, Wilhite is NADC’s Marketing and Communications Coordinator, filling one of the organization’s new positions and supporting its continuing growth. In the field of marketing, she is self-taught, but like in most things she applies herself to, Wilhite has been a fast learner. 

Most recently, her work helped NADC open the Eagle Seeker Community Center, a dedicated space for the Billings Native American community to gather, collaborate, and grow. 

When she’s not at work, there’s another TA tradition that Wilhite swears by – climbing mountains. Though she admits she was not an immediate fan of TA’s Mountain Day, she has since become an avid backpacker and hiker–and is hoping to plan a long-distance through-hike with some Thetford Academy classmates sometime soon. Until then, you can find her in the mountains of Montana and, this summer, hopefully, in Vermont. TA will be looking forward to having their biggest fan back on campus for her 10th reunion!



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