Making a Difference: Senior William Burger Discusses His Next Moves as a Leader and Athlete
Musician-athlete-volunteer-scholar-leader dynamo William Burger was not sidelined by COVID-19 protocols the way many others were. Sure, the pandemic was the root of challenges, but for him—in the way William has approached challenges in the past—he saw an opportunity.
Known in Laurel Springs circles for his many talents and innate leadership skills, William embraced the time. Rather than lamenting the unavoidable, William continued making the most of the flexibility online learning provides while focusing on his many other interests and setting the course for his future.
So what has William been up to since we last checked in with him?
Not much, he says… except overcoming injury, leading the Laurel Springs School student body as president of Student Government and the National Honor Society (NHS), and landing a spot at one of the most prestigious universities in the country—Carnegie Mellon University.
One cleat in front of the other
When William returned to his home state of Florida from overseas due to the pandemic, a long road of recovery stretched before him. He longed to feel the turf beneath him and the hushed thrill of standing guard at a goal again, but he couldn’t take to the field with all of his usual fervor for nine months after spraining his UCL and fracturing his right elbow. “It wasn’t easy at first,” Williams says, dealing with an injury so severe.
But with month after month of weekly physical therapy and mental conditioning, and with the timing of the pandemic stalling out most athletics, William didn’t miss much in the soccer realm and was able to debut as a recovered athlete with Major League Soccer’s (MLS) NEXT program, a relatively new group in the U.S. that develops youth soccer proteges into future professional athletes.
William never doubted a successful recovery. He just had to put one cleat in front of the other and make it happen. He has since moved on from MLS NEXT’s South Florida Football Academy to the Naples United Football Club, a semi-professional men’s soccer team in Naples, FL, as first goalkeeper. Naples United won the National Premier Soccer League tournament in Florida and progressed to nationals last year before William joined, which the Laurel Springs senior hopes to see happen again during his time with the team.
And with someone as strongly convicted as William, why wouldn’t it?
Leadership on and off the field
While William’s future in soccer is bright, he is also nurturing ambitions academically and professionally. After looking for schools with top-notch programs in both athletics and academics, William was recently accepted into the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University where he will also play soccer.
In his three years at Laurel Springs, William honed his leadership skills through roles within student government and National Honor Society. This year, he was voted president of both groups.
William says he “wants to make the biggest difference” he can, which is one of the reasons he co-founded the Laurel Springs NOW (New Orientation Welcome) Committee, an organization of student government members and student ambassadors that work to help new students feel integrated and welcome in the Laurel Springs community. William says he and the other student members know how it feels to step into an entirely new school environment and what information is helpful for making that transition.
Having lived in England, South Africa, Spain, and several places in the United States, William says he feels at home with the global Laurel Springs student body.
Laurel Springs students all have the common goal of trying to make the world a better place, and also of gaining that valuable leadership experience that Laurel Springs has to offer in all of its organizations and clubs,” he says.
As a senior readying himself for the real world, William especially values the opportunities in student leadership, noting the reciprocal impact those experiences have on his athletic pursuits.
Being a goalkeeper and being a leader at Laurel Springs goes hand-in-hand,” he says. “Both involve taking on responsibility…I think the organizational aspects of being a goalkeeper and a leader, as well as the responsibility and the communication skills, they all complement each other. I think that both of those activities have molded me into who I am.”
When William reflects on what he feels is his biggest accomplishment over the last two years since we’ve told his story, one element stands out: Helping Laurel Springs navigate COVID changes that impact student experiences, like the first-of-its-kind virtual prom.
William says he helped connect Laurel Springs students all over the world via Zoom for the must-have ritual and rite of passage.
“That just shows the beauty of Laurel Springs, combining everyone’s interests for anyone around the world,” he says. “I think that prom and dressing up nicely for that was a very good memory, and I look forward to the in-person prom that we will be having in California this year, which I also plan to be a part of the committee for.”
William Burger's next challenge: College and beyond
The past couple of years has included a lot of very late nights and early mornings for William, who is typically in soccer training until 10 pm most evenings, as well as schoolwork and studying for AP classes. Between his studies and soccer, plus all of his organizational obligations for his extracurriculars, he says he sometimes feels like a CEO running a business.
Somehow, William still finds time for his other passions, including music and volunteering. He plays the drums weekly for his local church, as well as a chapel for a local K-12 Christian school. He also still distributes food for Meals of Hope once a week.
William isn’t quite sure where his path will take him after Carnegie Mellon, but he’s considered setting course for investment banking and finance, specifically on Wall Street. Wherever he ends up, William says he feels he’s ready for each adventure that lies ahead, and he plans to be leading the way.
The leadership, spirit, and experience that Laurel Springs has offered me through all these opportunities have sparked my interest in leading others.”
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