(Note: For Spotlight "Middle/High School" stories from the 2013-14 school year clickhere or scroll down for more stories from the 2014-15 school year.)
Jonathon Graff named assistant principal at
Saint Peter Middle/High School
After a thorough search process, Saint Peter Public Schools has hired Jonathon Graff as the new assistant principal for Saint Peter Middle/High School, starting on July 1.
Graff most recently has served as assistant to the principal and also taught 7th grade Life Science for seven years at Dakota Meadows Middle School in Mankato.
There were 72 candidates who originally applied for the position. From there, eight candidates were selected for the first round of interviews and four of those moved forward to a second round of interviews. The field was then narrowed down to two finalists, including Graff, who were interviewed one final time by incoming Saint Peter Middle/High School Principal Annette Engeldinger and Superintendent Paul Peterson before the decision to hire Graff was made.
The assistant principal vacancy was created when Engeldinger, the current assistant principal, was hired by the district this spring to take over for Paul Preimesberger as Saint Peter Middle/High School Principal upon completion of the 2014-15 school year.
“I am excited to announce that Jonathon Graff has accepted the offer to become the next assistant principal at Saint Peter Middle/High School,” Engeldinger said. “Jon comes to us with great experience as both a classroom science teacher and as an assistant to the principal at Dakota Meadows Middle School in Mankato.”
“Jon rose to the top of a group of outstanding candidates. Throughout the entire interview process, Jon’s passion for education shone through,” she added.
Graff earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Life Science Education, a Master of Science degree in Teaching and Learning, and his Education Specialist and K-12 Administrative Licensure from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Summer Book Challenge offered to middle schoolers
Research has shown that summer reading programs often have a positive impact on students’ academic performance during the regular school year. However, there are many factors at work that sometimes keep kids from picking up a book during a time that is often referred to as the “summer slide”.
A new program at St. Peter Middle School is being offered to help students and parents, alike, work together to ensure the student finds the time to read during their time off this summer, according to Jennifer Maldonado, St. Peter Middle School English and Reading teacher and summer reading program coordinator. This program, called the Summer Book Challenge, is open to students entering grades 7-9 for the 2015-16 school year.
“I’ve been doing research myself on the impact of summer reading programs for a few years and I’m very excited about this opportunity,” Maldonado said. “Research has shown three main areas of focus in order to create a high quality summer program -- long-term summer reading (that is, a program that begins in the elementary grades and continues into high school), letting the kids choose the books they want to read (choice books), and actually getting books in the kids’ hands.
“We require the students to only read one book over the summer months, but we encourage them to read as many as they can. Middle school is a time when students start to shy away from reading books, and we would like to change that mindset.”
The logistics of the Summer Book Challenge are simple, according to Maldonado. Over the summer, children are to read a book of choice and write the title and author down on the book log, which was sent out to all of the middle school parents. While one book is the minimum number, the children are encouraged to read as many books as possible.
“As a parent, your responsibility is to encourage summer reading and sign the log sheet, confirming that your child has done the reading. Research shows that reading anywhere from four to twelve books (depending on level and length) over the summer can help offset that ‘summer slide’,” said Maldonado.
The log should be returned to each child’s reading instructor during the first week of school, which begins on Monday, Aug. 31. Shortly after school begins there will be a Summer Book Challenge Party in the school gym.
“Children will focus on a few of the best books from the summer,” Maldonado said. “At the party, your child will demonstrate knowledge of the book in a way they choose via stations—acting, discussing, writing, or illustrating. There will be awards given for the student(s) who read the most books, and there will be random raffle. Students will be entered into the raffle once for each book they’ve read.”
Getting books into students’ hands can be a challenge, but Maldonado and the other teachers (Levi Nellen and Erica McIsaac) involved in getting the program set up came up with creative ways around that challenge. One of those ways was giving students the chance to check out up to five books from the St. Peter Middle School media center for the summer.
According to John Byrnes, the school’s media center specialist, he checked out 950 books to students through this option.
Other ways to obtain books and reading materials is via the summer hours offered at the St. Peter Middle/High School media center. Hours are 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday through Friday June 19.
Local public libraries such as the St. Peter Public Library, are also tremendous assets for summer readers and Maldonado encourages students to use that resource as well. For more information on the St. Peter Public Library go towww.saintpetermn.gov/library.
Students and their parents can also contact Maldonado directly at email@example.com if they are looking for reading materials or have any questions about the Summer Book Challenge. Also, anyone interested in donating prizes for the Summer Book Challenge Party or volunteer at the event should contact her as well.
SPHS students shine at Work Skills Competition
A group of St. Peter High School students competed at the Work Skills Competition on May 21 at South Central College in North Mankato and came away with some very impressive performances.
"Our students did an amazing job," SPHS Work Experience coordinator Kelsey Hutchins said. "Out of the 10 different school districts that competed, our students finished with eight of the 15 top scorers, all five of the top scores, and one of our students (Erick Garcia) won the competition"
Work Skills Competition provides students (grades 11-12) the opportunity to showcase their job seeking and job keeping skills in four categories -- application writing, interviewing, problem solving, and general knowledge.
Garcia turned in the highest score for the event and also claimed the grand prize award. Deven Engle placed third overall and earned a gold medal for his efforts. Also earning gold medals were Brandon Cruz, Brook Gilbert, and Megan Speiss.
Other medal winners included Zack Forland (silver), Hunter Everett (bronze) and Austin Peterson (bronze). Other team members competing included Alison Gessner, Kyro Mielke, Kyle Hiniker, Levi Ballman and Mario Uvalle-Ramos.
Saints’ adaptive bowlers bring home two state medals
Eight members of the St. Peter High School adaptive bowling team made the trek up to the Twin Cities on Friday to compete in the 2015 Minnesota State Adaptive Bowling Tournament at the Brunswick Zone in Brooklyn Park.
Two Saints bowlers, Kiersten Stierlen and Emma Soderlund, brought home state medals for their efforts. Stierlen was fourth out of 37 competitors in the PI (Physically Impaired) Girls Singles event while Soderlund was just two points behind in fifth place.
The Saints also had one other top-20 place finish as Soderlund teamed up with Ben Bode to finish 18th out of 34 teams in the PI Doubles event.
This was the final event of the season for the adaptive bowling team and its co-head coaches Gayle Derner and Kris Voeltz along with assistant coaches Lance Johnson and Christa Herr.
“It was another exciting year for our athletes,” Derner said. “It was especially nice to see our community, classmates, and staff rally behind our bowlers this year. This positive support is greatly appreciated by the coaches and hope to see this continue throughout the years ahead.”
The following are the complete state tournament results for the St. Peter team:
PI Girls Singles -- 4. Kiersten Stierlen 441; 5. Emma Soderlund 439.
PI Boys Singles -- 32. Evan Borgmeier; 33. Ben Bode.
PI Doubles -- 18. Emma Soderlund and Ben Bode; 28. Evan Borgmeier and Kiersten Stierlen.
CI Girls Singles -- 78. Hannah Woodrum-Wilson
CI Boys Singles -- 22. (tie) Mason Doherty; 90. Deven Engle; 102. Hunter Carlsgaard.
CI Doubles -- 30. Deven Engle & Mason Doherty; 37. Hunter Carlsgaard & Hannah Woodrum-Wilson
SPHS students find collaboration educational...and tasty
Two St. Peter High School classes collaborated recently in what turned out to be an educational and fun experience for the students of those classes.
Corrine Kreft’s Foods II class worked together recently with Gena Lilienthal’s Advanced Animal Science class for their beef and pork units.
“During our PLC (Professional Learning Communities) group meeting Gena and I noticed how our curriculums have some common ground and we started to collaborate a possible merger,” Kreft said. “The biggest obstacle was getting students out of their fourth and eighth period classes."
On May 6, the Foods II students visited the Advanced Animal Science classroom where students there talked with them about a variety of topics about beef and pork they had been studying. According to Lilienthal, the class was broken down into three group and discussed the following topics:
* -- Pork cuts and how they are graded (acceptable and unacceptable).
* -- How to grade beef and knowing what to look for in regards to marbling and maturity.
* -- Common consumer terms for both cuts of meat (i.e. grain fed vs. grass fed).
“We had been learning about beef and pork nutrition and how to raise the proper carcasses for both of those, so this collaboration worked well with what were were doing,” Lilienthal said.
Two days later the Advanced Animal Science students returned the favor by visiting the Foods II classroom where students shared with them information about proper cooking methods and eventually prepared a whole meal using both kinds of meat.
As an added bonus the students were able to eat the food that was prepared, which included beef stew and pulled pork as well as cole slaw and dessert (brownies).
“The students really had a great time and learned a lot,” Kreft said. “The biggest benefit was the validation of each class and how they partnered up well with our merging of the beef and pork units.”
“This was a great experience not only for the students but for the teachers as well,” Lilienthal said. “I have already discovered other areas for future collaboration for our students, which provides them with more opportunities to learn.”
SPHS FFA members compete at state
Members of the Agricultural Science Academy FFA Chapter, based out of St. Peter High School, competed at the 86th annual Minnesota FFA Convention on April 26-28, at the University of Minnesota-St. Paul campus.
The chapter had three different Career Development Event (CDE) teams earn a trip to state this year and the chapter celebrated their first ever State FFA Degree recipient.
CDEs allow FFA members to practice what they have learned through agricultural education classes, apply them to real-life scenarios, and showcase their skills through competition. The following are the results from the St. Peter CDE teams:
* -- Dairy cattle evaluation (Emily Annexstad, Leif Annexstad, and Matthias Annexstad, Nick Seitzer, and Jacob Pehrson) - one bronze and two gold scores.
* -- General livestock evaluation (Jacob Anderson, Andrew Baker, Luke Pehrson, and Cody Vacek) - one silver and three bronze scores.
* -- Emily Annexstad also participated in the state discussion meet contest, prior to winning at the region level. She scored high enough to compete in two of the three rounds of the meet.
Alexia Riley earns State FFA Degree
Alexia Riley, a 2014 graduate of St. Peter High School, is the first member of the chapter to earn the Minnesota FFA Degree. This is the highest level of state membership any member can earn.
Alexia completed an extensive application that showcased intense involvement in a supervised agricultural experience program, completion of at least 25 hours of community service, and participation in 10 FFA activities above the chapter level. She was recognized on stage during the convention award ceremony.
Other state convention news
While at convention the students also participated in leadership workshops, delegate sessions, attended college and career fairs, listened to motivational speakers and toured local attractions. The St. Peter students had a horticulture based tour of Target Field at the end of their trip.
This year the Minnesota FFA Convention gathered over 3,000 FFA members, advisors, and guests from across the state to celebrate the accomplishments of members.
The National FFA Organization is the largest national youth leadership organization with over 600,000 student members, representing over 7,400 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Local FFA chapter info
The St. Peter chapter has approximately 50 members. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
For more information visit www.mnffa.org or contact the local FFA chapter advisor, Gena Lilienthal, at St. Peter High School via email at firstname.lastname@example.org by calling (507) 934-4210, ext. 466.
SPHS biotechnology students tour forensic crime lab
The St. Peter High School biotechnology class was able to see first-hand how the skills they are learning about in the classroom are applied on a professional basis when the students and their teacher, Sean Keating, visited the Tri-County Forensic Crime Lab in Anoka County on Thursday, April 30.
According to Keating, the students have studied about DNA in class and how it is used to solve crimes. The Tri-County Forensic Crime Lab has a large Forensic DNA department as well as two other departments -- Latent Prints, which uses forensics to catch prints left at a crime scene, and Drug Chemistry, which uses analytical tests to determine the substances in criminal cases.
“This trip was a lot of fun and I really liked seeing the actual experimental equipment the staff at the crime lab uses every day,” Janna Quick, a senior who is planning to study biochemistry at the College of St. Benedict starting next fall, said. “We do a lot of lab work in our class and focus on the biotech applications in a real world setting, which I really enjoy.”
“It was great to see all the different jobs involved at the crime lab and what skills they use day-to-day in their field,” Matt Carlson, a senior who will attend St. Norbert College (DePere, Wis.) to study chemistry, said. “What we saw on this trip really ties in well with what we are learning about in class.”
SPHS Student Council blood drive nets 100 units
St. Peter High School students and staff really stepped it up at the Student Council's annual blood drive on Wednesday by donating 100 units of blood. Last year's drive netted 86 units.
"It was another extremely successful blood drive," Mary Powers, SPHS school nurse, said. "Senior coordinators Megan Stenzel and Ellen Eide really provided great leadership for this successful blood drive. Junior coordinators, Travis Brock and Allie Baskfield also gave it their all to contribute to this successful day.
Sixty one of the students and staff who participated in this year's blood drive were first time donors. Each unit of blood has the potential of saving three lives.
"The Red Cross staff expressed how impressed they were with our student volunteers and blood donors as well as all the great support from SPHS staff," Powers said. "Our custodial and kitchen staff also contribute a great deal of time and energy to help make this a successful day.
"We couldn't pull this off so successfully without their great help."
Saints’ adaptive bowlers having fun season
SPHS team to compete at Minnesota State Meet on May 15 in Brooklyn Park
St. Peter High School’s adaptive bowling team is in the midst of another fun-filled season . The Saints’ eight team members, with their help of their co-head coaches, Gayle Derner and Kris Voeltz, have been working hard in recent weeks with a regular schedule of games and practices.
Adaptive bowling has two divisions -- Cognitively Impaired (CI) and Physically Impaired (PI). St. Peter High School’s program, which began during the 2000-01 school year, does compete in both divisions.
Saints’ senior captain Deven Engle really looks forward to the adaptive bowling season each year. His teammates for 2015 include (in alphabetical order), Ben Bode, Evan Borgmeier, Hunter Carlsgaard, Mason Doherty, Emma Soderlund, Kiersten Stierlen, and Hannah Woodrum-Wilson.
“I’ve been involved with the program since the seventh grade and have really enjoyed being a part of it,” Engle said. “Some of the things I love best about being involved with this team is getting to be there for my teammates to help them out not just here but also in school, too.
“My point of view is that being on the bowling team is that it’s also great being able to do something like this and have fun with my classmates.”
St. Peter recently competed against Simley High School (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.) with the each of the Saints’ team members bowling their two games here at their home lanes, KingPins Bowling Center, while Simley bowled at their home bowling alley. Most of their matches are on Wednesdays.
“This is how we normally compete against other teams during the season, but we do travel once in awhile,” Engle said. “Last week we went to the WOW! Zone in Mankato to take on Mankato East and Mankato West and lost by only six pins.”
The Saints will cap their season with the Minnesota State Adaptive Bowling Tournament, set for May 15, up at The Brunswick Zone in Brooklyn Park. The Saints have won several medals at state over the years, including a second-place finish in PI Doubles by Kiersten Stierlen and Ben Bode and a sixth-place finish by Stierlen in PI Singles in 2014.
“It is nice they that they have an opportunity to participate in a competitive sport which is recognized by the Minnesota State High School League,” Derner said. “I believe this is the only adaptive sport that allows for individual competition.”
Co-coaches Gayle Derner and Kris Voeltz both enjoy working with these dedicated student-athletes. Derner began with the program in 2003 as an assistant coach and was head coach from 2006 to 2012. In 2013, she joined forces with Voeltz to work together as co-head coaches for the program.
“What I like best with these athletes is that it is all about fun!” Derner said. “Don't get me wrong, they want to do well. They are disappointed when they have a bad frame; but that doesn't bring them down. They get right back up there and try their best.
“Bowling is a lifelong sport,” Derner added. “They can take what they learn and continue to develop these skills post secondary. Helps gain experience as being part of a team; develops social skills, and, by participating, it helps them to understand the expectations and rules when competing against others.”
“I have been involved with the bowling team for three years and my favorite part about coaching is the kids,” Voeltz said. “I enjoy seeing the expressions on their faces when they bowl a strike. It's amazing how much they improve throughout the season.
“I feel the biggest benefit for these kids is that they get all of the benefits of being on a team. They help each other out. They cheer each other on. There are high fives everywhere. It is also a great way to be connected to the school and to contribute to the school community...and it's fun!”
Saints' Academic Decathlon team places sixth at nationals
St. Peter High School’s Academic Decathlon team, which won the Minnesota state title earlier this year, placed sixth overall at the United States Academic Decathlon competition this past weekend at Garden Grove, Ca.
"We finished sixth of 12 teams in Division III, about as well as our teams have done in the past," SPHS advisor Mary Behrends said. “The biggest news is we won six national medals, a record for our team and for Minnesota teams...within anyone's memory, anyway.”
Those medalists included:
* Winston Taylor – first in Interview, second in Literature & third in Music
* Jennifer Bergeson – first in Interview (with a perfect score!)
* Josh Weisenfeld – second in Math
* Katrina Creel – third in literature
Winston Taylor was St. Peter’s top scorer and earned a $250 scholarship for this achievement. Kaelan Weiss was voted Most Valuable Team Member by the rest of the team and also earned a scholarship for $250.
The United States Academic Decathlon is a ten-event scholastic competition for teams of high school students. The theme for the 2014–2015 Academic Decathlon season was "New Alternatives in Energy: Ingenuity and Innovation"
‘Alice vs. Wonderland’ coming to SPHS stage April 30-May 2
Cast and crew for the SPHS Spring Play production of “Alice vs. Wonderland” includes: front row (l to r), Teagan Weiss, Dalton Myers, Rachel Beran, Taylor Graft, Rachel Quist, Rachael Obermiller, Sam Mitchell, Sophia Lamor, Katie Belden, Bri Meger, Nora Leonard; second row, Grace Kvidera, Nia Weiss, Kenzie Kienholz, Leah Harms, Mariel Ferragamo, Ashby Roloff, Tess Chadwick, Olivia Young, Molly Jurewicz, Mara Johnson, Dani Epper, Katrina Creel; back row, Dustin Andree, Aaron Shoemaker, Jordan Kienholz, Logan Woods, Noah Wilson, Winston Taylor, Jacob Marlow, Jacob Erkl, Kaelan Weiss, Isaac Westphal, Josiah Johnson, Katie Hammon, Alex Hilde-Mortenson. Not pictured are McKenna Aune, Aidan Bistrup, Peter Stelter, Noah Faulstich, Aurora Eades, Jaden Neubauer and Lauren Mayer.
St. Peter High School’s theater department is in the midst of rehearsals for its annual spring play, “Alice vs. Wonderland” which will take to the school’s theater stage on April 30 through May 2.
Showtimes for this year’s play is 7:30 p.m. and the admission cost is $5 per person and 3$ for children/seniors.. SPHS activities passes are accepted.
“Alice vs. Wonderland” is a surreal drama adapted by Brendan Shea and is based on the stories by Lewis Carroll. It is produced by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc.
Alice vs. Wonderland is described as a “psychedelic update of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Angst-ridden adolescent Alice unwittingly trades places with Mary Ann, the Wonderland version of herself. Now Alice must travel through a fantastical teenage dreamscape, challenged by Carroll's canonical characters every step of the way. Alice is played by six different actresses, each evoking a different aspect of adolescence. Together, they paint an entrancingly surreal portrait of a teenage identity crisis.”
Lyn Vavreck is the director for this year’s spring play while John Byrnes is the technical director and Erica McIsaac is the assistant director.
“This play allows for us to showcase this musically talented group of students with song, dance, and instruments in a setting that is fun filled and fanciful.” explained Lyn Vavreck.
Alice Vs. Wonderland Cast
Mary Ann: Rachel Quist
Alice 1 : Sam Mitchell
Alice 2: Taylor Graft
Alice 3: Rachel Beran
Alice 4: Rachael Obermiller
Alice 5: Dalton Myers
Alice 6: Claire Thoemke
Black Dalia: Mariel Ferragamo
Orchid: Ashby Roloff
Queen of Hearts: Sophie Lamor
White Rabbit: Peter Stelter
Mouse: Kaelan Weiss
White Knight: Noah Wilson
Cheshire cat: Tess Chadwick
Mad Hatter: Logan Woods
March Hare: Jacob Erkel
King of Hearts: Winston Taylor
Knave: Aidan Bistrup
Door 1 & Card #7: Isaac Westphal
Door 2: Cady Belden
Door 3: Grace Kvidera
Duck: Eleanor Grinnell
Lory: Olivia Young
Dodo: Molly Jurewicz
Pat: Nora Leonard
Tweedle Dee: Teagan Weiss
Tweedle Dum: Nia Weiss
Caterpillar 1: Mara Johnson
Caterpillar 2: Josiah Johnson
Dormouse: Jacob Marlow
Card #2: Kenzie Kienholz
Card #5: Leah Harms
Crew: Aaron Shoemaker, Jordan Kienholz, McKenna Aune, Peter Stelter, Dani Epper, Katrina Creel, Katie Hammon, Alex Hilde-Mortenson, Aidan Bistrup, Noah Faulstich, Aurora Eades, Jaden Neubauer and Lauren Mayer.
Two SPHS students get chance to attend unique program in D.C.
Two St. Peter High School students will get the opportunity to spend time in Washington, D.C., this summer thanks in part to their being chosen to participate in the Leadership Opportunities for Teens (LOFT) program.
Junior Victoria Garza and freshman Justin Clark recently learned that they were chosen to participate in the LOFT program, which is sponsored by the Alexander Graham Bell Association.
LOFT is a four day program in Washington, D.C. designed to help participants develop or strengthen skills in individual leadership, teamwork, group dynamics, public speaking and self-advocacy, according to their instructor, Laura Palesotti, MnVED (Minnestoa Valley Education District) Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing.
“This is a great honor for Victoria and Justin,” Palesotti said. “They will have the opportunity to learn from successful adult leaders who face challenges related to hearing loss similar to what they face everyday. The application process for this program is highly competitive, so I am very proud of them for being selected.
“Victoria and Justin have already shown leadership skills just by applying for this program. I can't wait to see how these skills grow during and after this once in a lifetime opportunity!”
This program is open to high school students who have a prelingual bilateral hearing loss who use listening and spoken language as their primary mode of communication. Victoria and Justin are two of only 20 students in the United States selected to attend. Their session is from July 26-30, 2015.
For more information about this program go to: www.ListeningAndSpokenLanguage.org/LOFT
SPHS to field first-ever trap shooting team this spring
By KURT HILDEBRANDT
School Information Coordinator
This spring will be the dawning of a new spring sports activity for students at St. Peter High School as the school’s first-ever trap shooting team begins its season in mid-April.
A total of 37 students in grades 6-12 have registered for the team, which is made up of both boys and girls. Each participant has to be age 12 and older and have earned their firearms safety certificate. The St. Peter program is part of the Minnesota Clay Target League with 243 schools participating across the state participating and more than 9,000 athletes involved. (www.mnclaytarget.com)
This is a co-ed sport and making this sport even more unique from the others affiliated with St. Peter High School is that the participants will not compete on school grounds nor will their equipment ever need to be stored on school property.
All of the trap team's competitions are on Sundays and, with the exception of its state tournament, will take place at the Caribou Gun Club in rural Le Sueur.
“We emphasize safety, first and foremost,” Doug Boyer, one of the Saints’ co-head coaches, said. “We have a certified First Responder as part of our group of assistants, which are all volunteers, and we have four certified gun safety instructors as part of that group as well.”
The program is fully funded through the registration fees paid for by each participant, according to Boyer. That fee helps cover the cost of shells, targets, vests and the league fee. The program has also been able to work with local businesses to help sponsor the program, to help offset some of the cost to students. The deadline to enter has passed, but the program will be looking for more participants next year.
Boyer and Jesse Lager will serve as co-head coaches for 2015 and will be assisted by Lindsay Powers, Jake Powers, Jeremy Haggenmiller, Eric Dunker, Jamey Pauly, Jason Wendroth, Eric Dunker, Chad DeBlieck and Lisa Boyer.
“We will have a varsity, junior varsity and novice level at the state tournament. During the season all scores count toward the team total as well as individual scoring, it is an individual and team sport similar to other school athletic teams like golf, wrestling, track or swimming,” Boyer said. “What is different about our sport is that you are put in a conference based upon the number of shooters you have on your team, not on how many people attend your school.
“Probably the biggest reason for starting up this program is these students have shown a lot of interest in hunting and outdoor activities such as trap shooting. This sport is a good match with the interests and skills of our participants. Trap shooting is the fast growing competitive sport for Minnesota high school students the last three years in a row.
“I had a friend who coaches at Nicollet who has helped us get started and I also met a lot of people through Pheasants Forever who were interested in seeing St. Peter High School start a program like this.”
Other area schools with trap shooting programs are Nicollet, Cleveland, Le Sueur-Henderson, Sibley East, Tri-City United, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, and Waterville-Elysian Morristown.
“Our business sponsors have been very supportive and Caribou Gun Club, which is where we will shoot, has just been outstanding to work with during the entire process of getting our program up and running,” Boyer said. “Without them we wouldn’t be able to do this.”
“I’ve been very impressed with the support we have also received from our administration. Activities Director Steve Alger and Principal Paul Preimesberger are big supporters of our program and have only asked that we handle it the right way. Superintendent Paul Peterson is also very interested and has asked to come out and watch our students shoot some weekend.
“We are working on getting the program going this first year and eventually it is our goal where it becomes a sport where our participants can earn a varsity letter like they would in any other sport. “
The St. Peter trap team will shoot on Sundays during the spring at Caribou Gun Club. The first two weeks of the season, which begins April 15, are practice weeks and the next week is set aside as a reserve week. The team will then compete over five straight weekends against other teams from their conference, which will be determined in the near future.
Trap Shooting team members
SPHS speech team places second at North Sub-Section meet
St. Peter High School’s speech team continued its impressive season by placing second out of 11 teams at the Section 2AA, North Sub-Section meet at Janesville on Tuesday, March 31.
The Saints earned 164 team points to finish just behind North Sub-Section champion Mankato Loyola which took top honors with 170 team points. Minnesota Valley Lutheran, Buffalo Lake-Hector/BOLD and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown tied for third with 40 points each.
St. Peter had 20 speakers place in the top six to advance to the Section 2AA Speech Meet set for Friday, April 11, at St. Peter High School. The top three finishers at the Section 2A meet qualify for the Minnesota State Class A Speech Tournament which is set for Friday, April 17, at Lakeville North High School.
Included in those 20 Section qualifiers were champions, Rachel Beran (Extemporaneous Reading), Skyler Hochstein (Informative), Allie Baskfield (Discussion) and Rafat Solaiman (Great Speeches).
The following is a complete list of St. Peter finishers/section qualifiers from the North Sub-Section meet:
ST. PETER SECTION 2AA PLACEWINNERS
Creative Expression - 3. Val Bresnahan.
Discussion - 1. Allie Baskfield; 3. Connor Prafke.
Extemporaneous Reading - 1. Rachel Beran; 3. Grace Kvidera.
Extemporaneous Speaking - 3. Mason Legg; 5. Olivia Young.
Great Speeches - 1. Rafat Solaiman, 4. Noah Wilson.
Humorous - 2. Ali Sandquist; 4. Sophia Lee; 6. Lily Werner.
Informative - 1. Skyler Hochstein; 2. Katie Sandquist.
Original Oratory - 4 .Kayley Ronnkvist.
Poetry - 4. Sam Mitchell.
Prose - 3. Sophia Lamor.
Storytelling - 2. Emily Annexstad; 4. Maddie Harvey; 6. Rachel Quist.
SPHS Foods II class visits The Cheese & Pie Mongers shop
On March 26, the St. Peter High School Food II class participated in a field trip down to The Cheese & Pie Mongers on Minnesota Avenue. This pie making venture made its entrance in September 2014.
Pie maker and business owner, Libby Warren, a St. Peter High 1998 graduate, shared the early progress of this St. Peter business. Warren explained her connection to a family owned business called Heritage Welch Farms out side of Lake Crystal. SPHS students learned about the new business had grown and were amazed that they had made over 800 apple pies since their opening.
Students also learned how the retail of cheese began and that it has been profitablefor the business.
"It was so rewarding to observe a former student’s success," Corinne Kreft, Foods II instructor, said. "The Food II class is planning more field trips as they continue to explore the high-paced opportunities in the Food and Hospitality industry."
SPHS ag students celebrate National FFA Week
FFA students from across the nation recently celebrated National FFA Week (February 21-28) and students from the South Central Minnesota Agricultural Science Academy were no exception.
National FFA Week is an opportunity for members to spread the word about their organization and the impact is has on students.
Students at Saint Peter Middle and High School had a large list of activities to excite both members and non-members including FFA emblem hunts, trivia contest, school dress up day, ice cream and pizza parties, milk and cookie run to generous sponsors and area farmers, broomball tournament, teacher appreciation day, and a kick-off to their yearly chapter fundraisers were the major events of the week.
“Many people do not realize that there are a large variety of opportunities within the FFA and that the organization does not stand for the Future Farmers of America anymore,” Emily Annexstad, Saint Peter High School FFA chapter president, said. “Because there are leadership activities for all students, not just those from a farm, we call ourselves the FFA. FFA week is a chance for us to share this message.”
This FFA chapter has a lot to celebrate this school year. Among the highlights include:
* The chapter’s dairy judging team (Emily Annexstad, Matthias Annexstad, Leif Annexstad, Nick Sietzer, and Jacob Pehrson) placed second at regional competition this fall and will be competing at state this April.
* Their livestock team (Jacob Anderson, Andrew Baker, and Luke Pehrson) placed third and will also be moving onto state.
* Katelyn Eckblad competed in extemporaneous speaking and placed 3rd at regionals at South Central College this month. Casey Osborne and Emily Annexstad were extremely competitive in the regional discussion meet and both moved onto the second round of competition. Emily won and will also be competing at State FFA Convention.
* The chapter’s wildlife team (Zach Miller, MacCoy Blaschkco, Brandon Kurth) and horse evaluation teams (Grace Pehrson, Marianna DeBlieck, Ethan Klaseus, Meagan Speiss) also had a very respectable scores this year.
* Four members (Abigail Borgmeier, Marta Springer, Hersain Cancino and Emily Annexstad) took part in the Washington D.C. Leadership Conference this school year.
The Saint Peter FFA chapter is 50 members strong this year. The FFA students would like to thank all of their sponsors for helping make their activities possible this year.
FFA is a part of the agricultural education program and is a national organization preparing students for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. They are dedicated to developing premier leadership, personal growth and career success for all students.
To learn more about the South Central Minnesota Agricultural Science Academy and FFA chapter, contact our local FFA advisor, Mrs. Lilienthal, at St. Peter High School, at email@example.com.
SPHS graduation rate compares well to rest of Minnesota
Recently released graduation data from the Minnesota Department of Education shows St. Peter High School’s graduation rate for the Class of 2014 to be well above the state average.
In 2014, St. Peter High School saw 93.13 percent of its students (122 out of 131) graduate compared to 91.4 percent (138 out of 151) in 2013. The Minnesota statewide graduation rate for the class of 2014 was 81.2 percent.
“We are extremely proud of our high graduation rate and this is indicative of our priorities here in providing excellent opportunities and challenging learning experiences for all our students,” St. Peter High School Principal Paul Preimesberger said. “It is always our goal to get those rates get even higher with the ultimate goal of achieving a 100 percent graduation rate.”
Andy Vander Linden, St. Peter High School’s guidance counselor, said the school district is committed to giving each student the opportunity to graduate on time and it offers many different options to help them get caught up should they get behind.
“Our graduation rate going up like that is very good news,” Vander Linden said. “Many of our students do very well but we also have those who may need help. We work closely with all our students to assure they are on track to graduate.
“We do that by doing graduation progress monitoring throughout their years here and if they get behind we have an effective summer school program, an effective credit recovery program and agreement with the local Adult/Basic Education to assist those students in need.”
State’s graduation rate improves as well
In 2014, 81.2 percent of Minnesota students graduated from high school, up from 79.8 percent in 2013. In addition, every student group showed an increase from the previous year. This information comes from newly released graduation data, showing continued growth in the number of students successfully completing high school.
“It is incredibly heartening to see our graduation rates continue on an upward trend,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “Over the past four years, we have doubled down on our efforts to better support students on their path from K-12 to career and college, and these data show it is working. This is a testament to all of the dedicated educators through Minnesota who make it their mission every single day to ensure all students have the chance to succeed.”
Since 2011, students have shown increases in graduation rates every single year. This year’s data move Minnesota closer to a statewide goal of having a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.
St. Peter Blue team earns trip to State Mock Trial Tournament
For the fifth time in six years the St. Peter High School Mock Trial program will be represented at state as the Saints Blue team defeated Maple River Blue 186-183 in the Region 6 final Thursday afternoon at the Mankato Post Office.
The Saints will now move on to the Minnesota State Mock Trial Tournament on March 5-6 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
The Minnesota High School Mock Trial program is a law-related education program that introduces students to the American legal system and provides a challenging opportunity for personal growth and achievement. Mock trial is offered at 74 high schools in the state with many of those schools fielding more than one team.
During a mock trial competition the students exercise their critical thinking and teamwork skills, as well as the basic skills learned in the classroom.
Members of the Blue team heading to state include (in alphabetical order) Rahma Abdi, McKenna Aune, Allie Baskfield, Hannah Baskfield, Melissa Chalupnik, Rebecca Favre, Allie Warren and Noah Wilson.
The other St. Peter team that competed this year includes (in alphabetical order) Hailey Blaschko, Thais Caceres-Fugon, Anja Dulin, Bailey Fitzgerald, Kylie Grack, Lillie Hagen, Kaleb Long, Peter Stelter and Amber Wang.
Advisers for the St. Peter High School Mock Trial program include social students teacher John Warren, Nicollet County District Judge Alison Krehbiel and Jeff Grace, an attorney with Blethen, Gage & Krause, PLLP.
“I can’t thank Judge Krehbiel and Jeff Grace enough for all the work they’ve done with the program this year,” Warren said. “Our students really gain a lot from the experience those two provide during practice and during competitions.”
Middle School play takes to stage Feb. 26 & 27
The St. Peter Middle School play, "Andromeda's Galaxy," will take to the SPHS/MS theater stage for three shows in late February.
"Andromeda's Galaxy" was written by Alan Haenal and produced by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc. (www.playscripts.com)
The show dates and time are set for Thursday, Feb. 26 at 8:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m., and Friday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. Admission to all three performances is free.
John Byrnes is the director for this year's middle school play while Casey Rose and Erica McIsaac are assisting with this year's show.
The following is a list of the middle school play cast & crew:
Crew: Jayden Neubauer, Victoria Whitsel, Amelia Wernsing, and Isaac Peterson
Former Saints standout winding down hoops career at Wisconsin
2011 SPHS grad AnnMarie Brown to play in Minneapolis on Feb. 11
While St. Peter High School has had several student athletes in recent years get the opportunity to take their talents to the collegiate level, 2011 graduate AnnMarie Brown is one of only two former Saints who are currently playing at the Division I level.
(Jesse Munsterman, also a 2011 SPHS grad, plays D-I baseball at South Dakota State University.)
AnnMarie, the daughter of Dawn and Tom Brown of St. Peter, was an all-state basketball player who helped lead the Saints to back-to-back state tournament appearances in 2010 and 2011 and eventually signed a letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), a Big Ten school.
The 6’0” senior guard/forward has been a key reserve for the Badgers this year as she winds down her collegiate career during her senior season. She will be making one last appearance in the Twin Cities as a collegiate player when Wisconsin travels to the University of Minnesota on Wednesday, Feb. 11, for a game at Williams Arena.
We recently had a chance to catch up with AnnMarie to find out how her college career has been going, have her reflect on playing at “The Barn” on February 11 and reminisce a little about her time as a a prep athlete at SPHS.
* What is your field of study and when are you graduating?
I’m graduating with a degree in Kinesiology, Exercise and Movement Sciences. I have a 3.836 GPA and am known as the team nerd. I’m our two time board scholar that is awarded to the individual with the highest GPA on the team. I also received the Chi Alpha Sigma Award - National College Athlete Honor Society Member. Chi Alpha Sigma is a nonprofit organization established to recognize college student athletes who earn a varsity letter in at least one sport while maintaining a 3.4 or higher cumulative GPA throughout their junior and senior years. I’m graduating this May, but finishing my degree over the summer session where I’ll have an internship that counts toward credit.
* What are your plans for after graduation?
I am planning on going to Physician Assistant school. My post graduation plans consist of taking a year off. I have to take a few more prerequisite courses before applying to graduate school. I plan on taking those courses at Mankato State. Because of my lack of job experience, I plan on getting a job in the health care setting in order to assist with my acceptance to PA school.
* What have you enjoyed most about your time at the University of Wisconsin and Madison in general?
The atmosphere and environment in Madison is truly one of a kind. It has a small town feel, where you’ll always find a friendly face, yet it’s a big city with a lot to offer. From the farmer’s market every Saturday, the Comedy Club on State Street, to all the incredible Badger athletic events, there never is a dull moment. My favorite aspect of Madison is all the good food spots. My favorite place on campus (other than the Kohl Center) is Memorial Union and the Terrace. It is the prime spot in the summertime. Docks to layout on, water activities, good food, drinks, and company.
* How did your days at SPHS prepare you academically for college?
I believe that the education I earned at SPHS prepared me very well for college. It was not easy making the transition to college, because the material is harder and so much more is expected of you, but I put in the work to be successful. It has paid off, but I owe that to the work ethic I developed in high school.
* What do you remember most about your days as a St. Peter Saint, athletically?
The greatest memories I have with St. Peter athletics always include the fans. Regardless if it was the boy’s team cheering on the girl’s or vice versa, we had the best fans in the state.
Speaking of state, two trips to the state tournament was pretty special. Although it never turned out how we quite wanted it, the memory lives on as one of the best. I still get asked about the section championship game against Blue Earth. I still don’t know how I made those three free throws, scoring my 1,000th point, and then hitting a buzzer beater all in one game. It boggles my mind!
* Have your parents had a lot of chances to see you play? How about other friends you have from here?
My parents do an amazing job at trying to make it to the majority of my games. We play on a lot of Sunday’s so that definitely helps allow them to come. It’s more difficult for them to make weeknight games. Regardless if they can make it or not, they are my biggest supporters and I appreciate every mile they have driven to watch me play.
A few of my high school friends have made it to some games. It’s such a great feeling when they want to come support you still at this level. This year we had the opportunity to host Minnesota-Duluth as one of our exhibition games. I had a blast being on the same court with Alyssa Kerkhoff (also a 2011 SPHS grad) once again.
* How hard is it to find a balance between your academics and playing basketball at a Division I school?
Learning to balance being a full time athlete and student is quite the skill. Time management is critical. It is safe to say that I do not have much of a social life once we get to playing games. You’re in class, going to practice, traveling, playing games, and on top of that you have to take exams, write papers, and manage to get a decent amount of sleep to recover. I figured out how to balance my schedule early in my college career, which allowed me to be so successful academically.
* Can you give us a quick breakdown of what your day is like when you have classes and practice?
A quick breakdown of a typical Wednesday this semester: I start my day at 8:50 a.m. with Neural Control of Movement, following I head to my Microbiology lab at 9:55-11:50 a.m. Afterwards, I head to the Kohl Center to get ready for practice at 1 p.m. I get taped up, warm up on the bike, stretch out, and review our scouting report before we begin film at 1. Our practices vary in length, but will be out of the gym by 4 p.m. Post practice, I get stretched out and foam roll before heading to shower. I grab ice for my knees then head to my last class of the day, Biomechanics of Human Movement. I love having the “early” practice slot because it gives me plenty of time to work on any assignments and still get to bed at a decent time.
* How is that different when you have classes and a game?
On gamedays, if we are home we still go to class. Contrary to belief, we do not enjoy missing class. It’s so difficult to make up because so much is covered in one class period.
Say we have a 7 p.m. game, we will have a shoot around at 2 p.m. During shoot around, if we are free and do not have class, we will go over our scouting report once again. This consists of going through their out of bounds plays, any man sets that they run, and lastly plays they run against a zone. We also will run through all our of plays and how we plan on attacking our opponent.
Preparing for a game, is like preparing for an exam. We memorize our scouting reports that key in on each player and their tendencies. If we can shut down each player’s favorite move, we put ourselves in a position to be successful.
After shoot around, we have our pregame meal in our student athlete dining facility in the Kohl Center. It consists of two types of protein, chicken and fish, pasta and sauce, some sort of potato, vegetable, fruit, and a salad bar. Fueling properly for games is crucial at any level.
After our pregame meal, we have down time until we are required to be back to the gym by 5:30 p.m. Each girl has a different pregame routine about when they like to arrive but by 6 p.m., we are out on the court warming up with our strength coach. We come in for our pregame chalk talk, then hit the floor with 20 minutes left until tip off.
* This year your team has played in the Bahamas and Miami, Fla., but where were some of the other road trips your team has taken (other than Big Ten venues) during your career?
The amount of traveling that I have done in four years is unreal. I’ve flown so many times it’s second nature and have dined and slept at endless hotels. We are fortunate, and honestly spoiled, that we have charter flights to the majority of our games.
A few of my favorite road trips have been to Vanderbilt, Kansas, and Gonzaga. To play at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, one of the most historic venues in NCAA basketball, was an incredible experience. Vanderbilt has one of the most iconic courts in hoops where the team’s benches are on the baseline of the court. Lastly, the trip we took to Gonzaga was one of the greatest atmospheres I’ve ever played in. The game was sold out, it was their home opener, and they were ranked in the top 25 teams in the country. The crowd was so loud, the game was a nail biter, one that I will never forget.
It might not constitute as a road trip, but across campus we play a game annually at the UW Fieldhouse where our volleyball team plays. We get a huge crowd and it is a special opportunity to play there.
* Besides the Kohl Center, what are some of your other favorite venues you have played at during your career?
(As mentioned above) My favorite venues in the Big Ten, number one is Minnesota. I may be biased, but The Barn is where I dreamed of playing growing up. It has so much meaning to me playing there, that I instantly get the chills thinking about it. Facing the Cornhuskers is always a tough task, especially at Nebraska. The crowd they pull in is off the charts loud. You have to have ice in your veins to compete there. Another favorite place to play is at Michigan State. There’s so much history, with all the Final Four banners in the rafters as well as Magic Johnson’s number hanging up there, it's pretty sweet.
* What advice would you have for any kid from St. Peter with a dream to play Division 1 athletics?
You have to put the work in to be the best. That means working on each aspect of the game so you don’t have any weaknesses. You don’t have to spend hours upon hours in the gym to improve either. Working on a few things daily, for maybe a half hour, you will continue to get better. My coaches preach when recruiting, have a mid range game. Anyone can make a layup or shoot a three, it’s the midrange pull ups and jumpers that separates the good players from the great. Even though, you have to score to win the game, rebounding, passing, and hustles are really lead to success. No one can question hustle or playing with heart.
However, even with Division 1 aspirations, enjoy high school. Play multiple sports. My teammates and I talk about how much we miss playing soccer, tennis, softball, and volleyball, because it was a blast. Once you get to college especially at this level, your sport is basically is job. We love it, but it’s treated much differently.
SPHS announces 2014-15 ExCEL Award winners
St. Peter High School juniors Mariel Ferragamo and Noah Hildebrandt were recently announced as the school’s 2014-15 ExCEL Award winners.
The ExCEL (Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership) Award is a unique recognition program designed exclusively for Minnesota high school juniors who are active in school activities, who show Leadership qualities, and who volunteer in their communities.
Mariel, the daughter of Janine Wotton and Michael Ferragamo, stays plenty active during the school year by being involved with the Saints varsity swimming team, Student Council, Ecology Club, band, choir, National Honor Society, Math League and the Respect Refugee organization.
When she is away from school the junior standout serves as a group leader at the Youth Frontiers retreat as well as being an officer with her 4-H club.
Noah, the son of Teresa and Kurt Hildebrandt, keeps himself busy during the school year with a variety of activities including varsity football and varsity basketball along with junior class officer, Student Council, National Honor Society and choir.
Outside of the classroom Hildebrandt is a member of his church’s youth group and volunteers his time during the summer months at youth basketball and football camps.
Life Strategies students learn important lesson of giving back
Group of 9th and 10th graders make polar fleece mittens for those in need
Students in Corrine Kreft’s Life Strategies class are learning a valuable life lesson as we approach the holiday season on the importance of giving back to their communities.
The 20 or so 9th and 10th graders who make up the first block class have been busy the past eight days making polar fleece mittens which will be donated to families in need in the Saint Peter School District just in time for the holiday season and the cold winter months ahead.
“Busy hands make warm mittens,” Kreft said. “This is a win-win project for everyone -- these students, the school and the community and especially those who will eventually receive the much-needed mittens.”
This is the third year Kreft has incorporated a community service project as part of the semester-long Life Strategies classroom work. Two years ago they put made recycled mittens which the students gave to others as gifts and last year the students made laptop quilts for St. Peter nursing home residents.
For this year’s project, each student donated $3.50 from which Kreft purchased several different colors and patterns of polar fleece material to use for the mittens. The students were then required to make one pair of mittens for themselves and the remaining material was used to make the donated mittens.
“After each of the students made their own pair, we had enough material to make 30 pairs of mittens to those in need,” Kreft said. “This class teaches life skills to these students and this project is great because it teaches them about working together on a project while also incorporating other skills such as sewing. Many of these students haven’t touched a sewing machine since 7th grade so this was a good way to revisit those skills.”
The students are expected to complete the project by Friday (Dec. 5) and then the mittens will be given to the school district’s social workers who will determine where they should go.
Live animals make a visit to SPHS ag classroom
Junior and senior students in Gena Lilienthal’s Plant and Animal Science class at St. Peter High School had a unique opportunity when three different kinds of live animals were brought into class on November 12.
Those animals which Lilienthal brought to class included several chickens, a silver fox and a hedgehog.
“We have been studying the respiratory and circulatory systems of animals and I thought what better way to learn about them than to have them examine them first hand,” Lilienthal said. “Before the students did that I had them take their own vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure and then applied what they learned from doing that towards the animals.”
The 16 students in the class got an up-close look at each of these animals, which Lilienthal has raised at her own farm. Some were a little more brave than others when given the opportunity to examine the animals up close, but they all got involved in some way.
“This was a great opportunity for the students and it is always great to be able to do something like this where students can learn through first-hand experience,” Lilienthal said.
SPHS theater students to stage “Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber on Fleet Street”
This year’s St. Peter High School theater department is busy making final preparations for their rendition of the musical Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber On Fleet Street (school edition) to present as this year’s fall play.
Show times are set for Thursday, Nov. 20; Friday, Nov., 21; and Saturday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. each night. A special matinee performance has been set for 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 22, as well.
“This is an extremely emotional piece and it can be hard to do a musical like this,” John Byrnes, SPHS fall play director, said. “However, the students have worked very hard and really pushed themselves in rehearsals.
“The music and emotions this play presents are really good challenges for the students and they have done a great job with it so far.”
Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber on Fleet Street is based upon the book by Hugh Wheeler and this adaptation for the stage was written by Christopher Bond. The music and lyrics for this performance were written by Stephen Sondheim.
Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students. St. Peter High School activities passes are accepted for admission into the fall play.
CAST & CREW LIST:
Sweeney Todd - Dalton Myers
Mrs. Lovett - Tess Chadwick
Beggar Woman - Claire Thoemke
Anthony - Logan Woods
Judge Turpin - Noah Wilson
Beadle Bamford - Molly Jurewicz
Johanna - Rachel Beran
Tobias Ragg - Winston Taylor
Pirelli - Taylor Graft
Bird Seller - Rachel Quist
Fogg - Mara Johnson
1st Man - Peter Stelter
2nd Lady - Leah Harms
3rd Man - Jacob Erkel
Chorus -- Aiden Bistrup, Skylar Hinderscheid, Olivia Young, Marta Springer, Ingrid Harbo, Shannie Rao, Rose Prings, Nora Leonard, Kelsey Kampa, Eleanor Grinnell and Antonia Weiss.
Crew -- Aaron Shoemaker, Jordan Kienholz, Bre Meger, Sam Mitchell, Rachael Obermiller, Dustin Andree, Trevette Weingartz, Jayden Neubauer, Gabriel Wilson, Bianca Wilson, Kaiden Burmeister, Lauren Mayer, Kendra Lindquist-Ove, Grace Kvidera
Director -- John Byrnes
Technical director -- Lyn Vavreck
Vocal music director -- Casey Rose
Student stage director -- Dustin Andree
(Note: All videotaping and photography during any of the four main performances is prohibited.)
McGinnis provides chemical health counseling for St. Peter students
Mike McGinnis has worked with public schools as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor for nearly four decades, including providing chemical health counseling services to Saint Peter Public Schools for the past 10 years.
The school district contracts for McGinnis's services through Addiction Recovery Technologies in Mankato.
“I started working as an alcohol and drug counselor when I was 21 and I’m 60 now, and one thing that’s been a constant in my years is that I work with a lot of really great people and sometimes really great people can make poor decisions,” McGinnis said. “Everyone is different and handles certain situations and stresses in life in different ways. It’s how they react to those situations and those stresses that can get people in trouble and that’s where hopefully I can help them realize there are solutions to their problems that do not need to involve drugs or alcohol.”
Through the years McGinnis has developed numerous positive relationships with students at St. Peter High School through his position. Some of those people he has helped have needed more help than others, while others simply needed him for informational purposes.
“I think it is safe to say, kids like me,” McGinnis quipped. “One of the toughest things can be getting students to understand that knowing me is a good thing and once they understand that I’m here to help it becomes easier to work with them.”
Recently he has noticed a trend -- that students are seeking out his help less and less these days and while it could be interpreted as a good sign that his messages are being heard loud and clear, he’s afraid it’s a different situation altogether.
“I do not think chemical use has gone down any, and there are statistics that prove that,” McGinnis said. “What worries me is that this kind of use is becoming more and more acceptable at home, where parents may think if they can control where their children use chemicals that it will help alleviate some of the problems, but that simply isn’t true.”
“We have kind of developed this prevailing idea that has gone away from the ‘don’t use’ mentality to more of a ‘don’t get in trouble’ or ‘don’t get caught’ attitude. We need to change that way of thinking.”
McGinnis usually spends each Wednesday in St. Peter. He spends part of his mornings at the MVED (Minnesota Valley Educational District) building working with students there and then moves over to the St. Peter Middle School/High School building for the rest of the day.
“I also am the chemical health counselor for the Mankato school district, and have been for 20 years, and also have been involved with other districts such as St. Clair, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, Blue Earth Area and Fairmont,” he said. “There have always been chemical and alcohol issues facing students everywhere I’ve worked, but what has changed is the scope of those chemicals and how the kids are using them.”
McGinnis points out the recent “explosion of opiates,” starting with prescription drugs such as vicodin, hydrocodone and oxycodone (Oxycontin), to name a few, has really taken its toll. Other drugs such as krokodil and methamphetamine also have devastating effects on anyone who uses and heroin use is also becoming more and more of a problem because it less expensive than some of the other drugs out there.
“You take a look at something even more common that kids will use like marijuana, and how it’s potency has changed over the years and the continued abuse of alcohol by students and you can see the difficulties these students are facing each day,” McGinnis said. “Many times kids are looking for way to get away from the stresses of everyday life and seek out the instant relief they feel chemicals provide, but without realizing the long-term implications of their use. That is where I, hopefully, can step in and hopefully offer them help in changing their thought process and behavior before more serious consequences arise.”
McGinnis gets connected to students mainly on a referral basis and works with them in a variety of ways such as one-on-one or small group counseling sessions. He also does assessments in certain situations to determine the degree of risk of that particular student or he simply may work with a student and/or parents who simply may have a question for him.
“I like to think of myself as a bus stop,” McGinnis said. “I’m not the first place they’ve stopped on their road of life and most people only stay with me for a short period of time. You can either choose to get off the bus after a short ride or stay on for a little longer if that helps you get closer to where you want to go. Eventually you will get off the bus and move on to the next stop, but hopefully what we’ve learned together will help you down the road.”
Part of McGinnis’s job also deals with prevention and he will work in a classroom setting educating students about the risks associated with chemical use and ways they can avoid getting into bad situations or resisting the peer pressure they can often face during their time in school.
“We can accomplish change if we provide kids with a clear message about usage of chemicals, but right now it seems we are struggling with getting the right message out there,” McGinnis said. “A counselor can only do so much as a strong support system outside of school including parents, other family members and friends is also very important.
“The family unit, as we used to know it, has shrunk. In the past it used to include mom and dad, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, and your neighbors. People weren’t afraid to look out for each other and let parents know when their child messed up. You used to see a support for moments of intervention but these days people view that kind of behavior as intrusive.
“We do better as communities when we trust and support each other and when that happens it gives everyone a better chance to make good choices and be successful in life.”
Mike McGinnis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (507) 934-4210, ext. 509.
Exchange students making most of their year at SPHS
Italy and Germany students calling St. Peter home for 2014-15
St. Peter High School is fortunate to have two foreign exchanges students attending classes here during the 2014-15 school year.
Those exchanges students include seniors Eleonora Romano, who is from Italy, and Noah Kroemer, who is from Germany. Romano is staying with the Mike and Jodi Kmett family while Noah is living with the James and Kris Sack family.
We recently had the chance to catch up with the two busy students who are adjusting to life here in the U.S. and ask them a few questions about themselves and life here in their “temporary” new homes. Here are their responses:
ELEONORA ROMANO (Italy)
* Who are your family members (from both your family back home in Italy and your host family here) -- In my family we are four: me, my mom (Paola), my dad (Giuseppe) and my older sister (Eugenia). In my host family we are four, too: I live with Jodi (host mom), Mike (host dad), Tori (host sister) and two dogs: Tula and Murphy. I have a host brother, too, Mick, but now he's at the university.
* What is your hometown and how big is it (population-wise) and where is it located? -- In Italy I live in Pisa, where there is the Leaning Tower. Pisa is a pretty big town of 88,000 people. It's located in Tuscany, in the centre of Italy.
* What do your parents/family members back home do for a living/career? -- My mom is a anesthetist, my dad is the chief of the fire service in Tuscany and my sister is a psychologist.
* How did you become interested in becoming an exchange student? -- I love traveling and I always wanted to spend a year abroad to learn english because I'd like to study after high school in a university elsewhere. So I decided to come to America because I wanted to find out more about this famous country.
* What was it that drew you to Minnesota and have you been here before? -- I didn't choose to come to Minnesota. With my organization I could choose only to come to America but I didn't know where I would arrive. When the Kmetts chose me that's when I found out I was going to Minnesota.
* How has your stay been so far? -- So far everything is good: I like here, the school, the people and my beautiful host family. Everybody is really nice with me, they gave me a very warm welcome and I feel at home here.
* What have you enjoyed most about life in St. Peter? -- I like St. Peter because since it's a little city, there are many events where everybody is involved.
* What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to here? -- So far so good, I don't have any problems but sometimes I miss my coffee.
* What activities are you involved with here at St. Peter High School? -- I was involved in Tennis, but now the season is over. I didn't play tennis before, so this was the first time for me, and while I wasn't so good I had so much fun! The tennis girls are very very nice!
* What are your favorite subjects /classes here at St. Peter High School? -- I like math and photography and the hardest subject for me is senior social since I don't know a lot about government, above all about American government, and all this stuff is in English!
* Any particular places/things you want to see or do while here in Minnesota? -- I'd like to go to the Twin Cities, visit the famous "Mall of America" and see some beautiful lakes.
NOAH KROEMER (Germany)
* Who are your family members (from both your family back home in Italy and your host family here) -- My father is Heinz and my mother is Helga. I have three siblings -- Bjorn (age 31), Tatjana (24) and Stella (14). I am living here in St. Peter with Kris and James Sack.
* What is your hometown and how big is it (population-wise) and where is it located? -- I live in Werlte which has a population of around 10,000 people, which is similar in size to St. Peter. Werlte is located in the northeast corner of Germany, near the border with the Netherlands.
* What do your parents/family members back home do for a living/career? -- My father works for an insurance company and my mother is self-employed in sales.
* How did you become interested in becoming an exchange student? -- I have always been interested in American culture and the language. I started looking for exchange programs three years ago but i thought it was better to wait a little bit until I was mature enough. Last year we had an exchange student from Australia going to our school, who is one of my best friends today. That was also a point where I wanted to go and explore new places of our world and myself, too.
* What was it that drew you to Minnesota and have you been here before? -- I did not choose Minnesota. My host family picked me that's why I'm here. :)
* How has your stay been so far? -- It has been great and it is still awesome.
* What have you enjoyed most about life in St. Peter? -- I made very good friends in the first two months. So hanging out with friends and discovering new things, places and differences is a lot of fun.
* What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to here? -- There are a lot of differences between German schools and American high school. One of the biggest is that here you change classrooms each period and have different students in each class. Back home in Germany you stay pretty much with the same group of students while the teachers change rooms each period. We also have more classes offered in Germany.
* What activities are you involved with here at St. Peter High School? -- I played soccer and am thinking about others but haven’t decided yet.
* What are your favorite subjects /classes here at St. Peter High School? -- I really like photography.
* Any particular places/things you want to see or do while here in Minnesota? -- I haven't been to the Mall of America yet. :) That would be a nice place to visit. I would like to see so many things.
SPHS ranks high for ACT results among Big South schools
A recent comparison of ACT test results over the last five years among the new Big South Conference members shows St. Peter High School students have fared very well during that time from a composite score perspective.
The ACT college readiness assessment is a standardized test for high school achievement and college admission in the U.S. The assessment tests the students in four main subject areas -- English, math, reading, and science.
The Big South Conference is the merger of the former South Central and Southwest conferences and includes St. Peter, Blue Earth Area, Fairmont, Jackson County Central, Luverne, Marshall, New Ulm, Pipestone Area, Redwood Valley, St. James, Waseca, Windom Area, and Worthington.
Windom Superintendent of Schools Wayne Wormstadt compiled the list which included a comparison of each of the graduating classes from all 13 Big South high schools from 2010 through 2014. This list included the average test scores for each of the four subject areas and the overall composite score.
St. Peter was the only school out of the 13 members of the Big South to rank in the top three for overall composite score in each of the five years that were included in the comparison. During the five-year span, SPHS students also scored above the state and national averages for overall composite score each year.
“I think this speaks to the tradition that St. Peter schools have developed over the years for being really focused on student achievement,” St. Peter Middle/High School Principal Paul Preimesberger said. “It also shows that our district has done a good job in making sure our system and our resources are aligned to help with student achievement and meet our goals.
“It also speaks to the strong community support we have here. Residents of our school district take a lot of pride in their support making a difference and (through this comparison) they can see it going on with these results.
“A lot of credit goes to the work our teachers are doing in the classroom. It shows that they are thinking ahead for our students, not just for their high school years but also after they complete their education here.”
The following is the list of the top five Big South Conference schools, out of 13, for the past five years based upon each school’s composite average score:
2010 -- 1. ST. PETER 23.8; 2. Waseca 23.5; 3. Blue Earth Area 23.1; 4. Windom Area 22.8; 5. (tie) Redwood Valley and Worthington 22.6.
2011 -- 1. (tie) Blue Earth Area and Windom Area 23.2; 3. ST. PETER 23.1; 4. Jackson County Central 22.9; 5. Pipestone Area 22.8.
2012 -- 1. Waseca 23.2; 2. ST. PETER 23.0; 3. Blue Earth Area; 4. (tie) Fairmont and New Ulm 22.7.
2013 -- 1. Blue Earth Area 23.5; 2. ST. PETER 23.1; 3. New Ulm 23.0; 4. Marshall 22.7; 5. Waseca 22.5.
2014 -- 1. Luverne 23.9; 2. New Ulm 23.2; 3. (tie) ST. PETER and Windom Area 22.9; 5. (tie) Blue Earth Area and Marshall 22.7.
New SPHS/MS principal eager for school to start
Paul Preimesberger is the new principal at St. Peter High School/Middle School and is looking forward to welcoming students back to classes on Sept. 2.
By Kurt Hildebrandt
School Information Coordinator
The start of the new school year is an exciting time for anyone working in education, and with that excitement for new St. Peter Middle School/High School Principal Paul Preimesberger comes a return of sorts to where he got his start working in education.
Prior to coming to St. Peter, Preimesberger had served as the assistant director for Minnesota State University-Mankato’s Center for School-University Partnerships since 2010. Before that, he worked in Robbinsdale School District (from 2000 to 2010), first as a high school English teacher and eventually as one of that district’s Teaching and Learning Specialists.
To be able to return to a high school setting is something Preimesberger is really looking forward to as the start of the 2014-15 school year closes in quickly.
“Being back in a high school building and being able to be in the classroom to work with the teachers and students is the thing I’m most excited about,” Preimesberger said. “I really missed the energy and pace of the high school setting and, in particular, working with that age group of students.”
Preimesberger has kept busy since taking over his new position officially on July 1, getting acclimated not just with the school district but also with the community of St. Peter. He and his wife, Angela, have recently moved their family to St. Peter from Minneapolis and their twin sixth grade daughters will be attending North Intermediate starting on September 2.
“I’ve met a lot of the staff already this summer through RTI summer conference at MSU, summer school, tech boot camp and Innovation Zone training,” he said. “Through those interactions with the staff, it’s easy to see the dedication they all have to this school and the students.”
Understanding how important community support is for any school district, Preimesberger has been more than impressed with how district residents feel about their schools.
“Being out in the community and at events such as school board meetings and the co-curricular meeting, you realize how much this community gets behind its schools. Also, the people here have really made me feel right at home which has really helped with the transition. My whole family is really looking forward to becoming a part of this community.”
Preimesberger said he is appreciative of the unique situation he is coming into here at St. Peter with the top administrators at all three main buildings being new to their positions.
“I feel I’ve been able to get off to a good start and being able to work with such a talented administrative team like we have here with Dr. Peterson, Darin Doherty and Doreen Oelke is a real plus,” he said. “Also, being able to work with people like Annette Engeldinger and Steve Alger has been very positive and I’ve been able to rely upon their experience and knowledge as the summer has gone along."