By: Lydia Sun- Greenheart Work and Travel participant and Ambassador Scholar

For 30 days I have been trying to figure out the question: What makes my host city special? I realized that the United States is made up of diverse cities and each city actually owns a “price tag”, meaning each city plays its own indispensable role in this exceptional country. Finally, I got my answer yesterday: it is the people here that make Tomah, the city where I am living, special.

When it comes to people, there are two names I have to mention in reference to the history and beginning of this place: Robert E. Gillett and Thomas Carron. The former is the person who founded Tomah, located west of Fort McCoy, near Lake Tomah in Monroe County. The latter once held a tribal gathering to celebrate the area’s substance, and Tomah was later named after him. It is said that the son of old Carron, a man with dark eyes and handsome features, looking every inch a king, became the chief of this tribe in his early manhood. “I have heard of the battles you have fought, the victories you have won, and the scalps you have taken, but it is my boast that these hands are unstained by human blood.” This was the chief’s reply when Tecumseh tried allying with Tomah. Once I read that sentence, my heart was filled with admiration for his charity and humanity. In my opinion, Tomah was endowed with both of these people at its founding. That is why I can now comprehend that Tomah residents are known for collaborative efforts and friendly hometown attitudes. That is their “inheritance”.

Later on, I was told that the Tomah Public Library and Old Tomah post office are landmarks here. After researching these facts, my opinions about Tomah were affirmed; it is a place endowed with both charity, love for other people and humanity. For example, you can trace these ideas back to 1911, when a successful geologist, Ernest Buckley, left the city $12,000 to be used for a park or library. The leader of the city eventually set aside $7,000 for a library and requested a grant of $10,000 from the Carnegie Foundation for other projects. The public library has served the city of Tomah and the surrounding areas ever since- such a long time!

Lastly, I have insisted that life is tough for many years, especially after the first few weeks working in Tomah. However, after seeing the kindness of people here, when I think about those warm scenes, all of my struggles fade away, and that inspires me like a light. Life is not that tough. Life is not supposed to be that tough. I am enjoying it all.

If you want to learn about what makes each city in the United States unique, look into our Summer Work Travel program. Follow us on Instagram and see the adventures our participants are having across the country.