When Brookfield East senior Jake Graf walked across the graduation stage on June 11, he completed a successful high school career that included a football state championship, as well as continuing a family tradition as a third-generation Elmbrook graduate. "We came back to Elmbrook to raise our family because we knew the quality and the power of its community and education system," expressed Jake's father Chuck ('89) and mother Angela ('90), both Brookfield Central graduates. With Jake's brothers Alex ('19) and Andrew ('24), the Graf legacy at Brookfield East will continue for years to come.
What has become a family tradition actually started with Jake's grandmother, Vickie (Emanuele) Werner who came to Brookfield Central as a junior and graduated in 1967. "I received a challenging education that taught me a lot," said Werner. Already, Werner could think of no better place to raise a family, and when her daughters, Angela and Nicole, began to attend Swanson Elementary, Vickie realized there was no better place to work, first volunteering in the Swanson Elementary library before eventually getting a job at the Central Administration Office. As the secretary of the Curriculum and Instruction department (currently Teaching and Learning) she helped verify testing materials and results in addition to numerous other duties for 25 years. "I learned from my father, who volunteered to speak to several history classes as a World War II veteran, and my mother, who helped in home economics class, that giving back to the district only makes your community that much better."
Werner's service and commitment to the Elmbrook Schools made a lasting impression on daughter Angela as well as her future husband. A 1990 graduate and a state gymnastics team champion, Angela pursued an Elementary Education major at UW-La Crosse with her eyes set on one day returning to the District. "My Elmbrook education really prepared me well for college," reflected Angela, a sentiment shared by high school sweetheart, Charles "Chuck" Graf. "My education allowed me to help mentor fellow college students in writing and other subjects," said Chuck. He praised his Central teachers for being incredible mentors and inspirations in his life and for serving as the cornerstone to his academic success, which includes a Juris Doctorate from Marquette University earned in 1997. Today he practices Worker's Compensation and Social Security Law and is a partner at Gillick, Wicht, Gillick, & Graf. Chuck gives back to Elmbrook by helping coach baseball, football, and Junior Spartan basketball.
Even before her college graduation, Angela followed in her mother's footsteps, working in the Elmbrook Summer School program. In 1995, she completed her degree and began teaching at Tonawanda Elementary. She now teaches at Burleigh Elementary and says, "I love working with kids every day, and there's no other district that I want to be a part of."
For Jake, who will be attending Edgewood College in the Fall on an academic scholarship, while his future plans and careers may change, his deep connection to the Elmbrook Schools may indeed bring him back someday soon, just like the generations of family before him.
Throughout September, the district will be featuring alumni stories of individuals who have given back to the district with their service and commitment.