In her own words: Maddie Schmoker
Maddie Schmoker is a student in the Wayne State University Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Mortuary Science Program. In 2021, she earned the Dean's Award for highest GPA among WSU Applebaum student-athletes.
I come from the small town of Kellogg, Minnesota. Born and raised in the Mississippi River valley provides endless opportunities for outdoor activities year-round. Our community is bound by fishing tournaments, moral mushroom contest, biggest buck challenges, and the local parishes. Kellogg is known for the Watermelon Festival. The town of 256 people get together to eat the locally grown watermelon, watch the parade, enjoy live music, and carnival rides. I had the honor to be crowned queen in the pageant and had the wonderful opportunity to represent my town at other small-town festivals. My neighboring town, Wabasha is recognized for the film Grumpy Old Men, which we celebrate every February all dressed in buffalo plaid.
I am a 2017 graduate of Wabasha-Kellogg High School. I was involved with many organizations and played five sports throughout my high school career most of which started at an early age. I started track and field as a junior in high school and went on to compete for Iowa Central Community College, where I studied for two years after high school. I never thought I would be a collegiate athlete, especially for a sport that I only started two years prior. This experience opened a world of opportunity for me. After being on a national winning team and being pushed to the best I can be, I came out a three-time National All-American. This resulted in many phone conversations with recruiters from 11 different universities, Wayne State not being one of them. I knew what my goal was all along, and that was to get my bachelor's in Mortuary Science. I took it upon myself to research schools that offer Mortuary Science. This led me to Wayne State. I reached out to the throws coach on the track team and within about a month I was offered a track scholarship. Before committing, I met with a mortuary science academic advisor to make sure that my credits would transfer, and I would be on the path to achieving my bachelor's of mortuary science. I had never been more excited for the new adventure that was taking me all the way to Detroit, Michigan. I didn’t know what to expect moving to a large city, but I learned to adapt and to become versed in the different cultures that Detroit has to offer.
Being a student-athlete isn’t always sunshine and roses. It's early mornings and late nights, traveling out of state for competition while reading textbooks on the bus, and not to mention running across campus after practice to make it to class on time. A typical day for me starts with morning weightlifting then practice right after. Then I would go to class with a granola bar and a protein shake to suffice for lunch. I would then do homework till dinner time. Lastly, I had to report to team study tables to wrap up my day. The only way that I was able to manage my schedule was by writing down everything in my planner that I needed to get done each day. Being a student-athlete, you have to stick to a schedule because time management is of the essence. I have learned so much through my athletic experiences that has helped me become more prepared for my future career. Beginning with the obvious, funeral directing is a physically taxing occupation. Funeral directors are on their feet all day, frequently lifting, while maintaining high energy. Athletics has also given me an organized lifestyle which directly correlates with funeral directing. You may need to be at a church, a cemetery, and be ready to meet with a family all in one day. Having your day planned out and everything prepared the night prior is going to help tremendously in this industry.
COVID-19 has completely redefined athletics and college classes. Last year at the start of the pandemic I was given a 1-week notice to move out of my apartment and head back to Minnesota. I was told my outdoor track season was canceled and all classes would resume virtually. This was devastating, but also very confusing. There was little known about what was going on in the world and when it would end. Thankfully I was able to return in the fall for track practices even though all classes were online. I had gotten used to the online learning format at this point, but it was very depressing to see campus so quiet with few people around. As far as athletics, there were many adaptations that were implemented across the entire department. Lifting times were cut back due to the number of people that were allowed in the facility at once. We were practicing in groups of 10 athletes as oppose to full team practices. Masks are always to be worn and we were COVID tested 3 times a week. No spectators are allowed at the track meets and other athletes are to watch from the stands. We are not able to get the rehab we would like because all ice baths are closed, and the training room is limited to the number of people getting treatment at a time. With that being said, the Athletic training staff has made adaptations as well to serve us the best they can. They have moved their treatment tables out of the training room and into parts of the gym to help accommodate more athletes. Student-athletes who have tested positive must quarantine then go through “return to play” protocol which includes a negative COVID test, EKG test, and two weeks of heart rate monitored activity with our athletic training staff. This has been a very tough time for people mentally and physically. I’ve been so used to running from place to place every second of the day to only leaving my apartment one time a day. I have found that it is very difficult to stay motivated when you don’t have a day filled with things to do and places to be. To manage everything that I still had going on I had to give myself deadlines, otherwise I would get distracted doing other things.
After graduation, I plan to move back to my hometown and do my apprenticeship in the state of Minnesota. After the completion of my apprenticeship, I plan to take the Minnesota and Wisconsin state board exams to become a licensed funeral director in both states.
Aside from athletics, I am also involved in a few other organizations on campus. I am involved with Greek life and a member of Alpha Gamma Delta (AGD) sorority. I held a position as the director of property where I oversaw the chapter's inventory and all our members' emergency contact information. Being in AGD has given me leadership and communication skills. We also do many philanthropic events to help give back to our community. I also was on the Gift of Life committee. Wayne State has won the past 10 Campus Challenges, where we compete against other schools to sign up the most people to become organ donors.
I also am a member of the Sport & Entertainment Business Association (SEBA). I joined SEBA to become more educated in business and since I have an interest in sports this was a great organization for me to join. I am on the marketing committee and I am learning so much from other business majors, I think this has been a great benefit for me that I will be able to take with me in funeral service.