MS-HS News and Notes

SPHS has two foreign exchange students for 2018-19 school year
Kurt Hildebrandt

Saint Peter High School has a long tradition of having foreign exchange students spend the school year here and this year that tradition continues with two exchange students attending classes here at SPHS..

Tom Boerner from Hamburg, Germany, and Mario Ciancio Sanfilippo, from Catania, Italy, are members of this year’s senior class. The following is a Q&A profile of those two students:  

 SPHS exchange students Tom Boerner (left) and Mario Ciancio (right).

   SPHS exchange students Tom Boerner (left) and Mario 
   Ciancio Sanfilippo (right).


Host family -- Kris & James Sack of St. Peter

Family members -- father, Jan; mother, Claudia, and sister, Lina, 20.

Parents’ occupation(s) -- My father is director of parts for Jungheinrich, the third-largest forklift truck company in the world, and my mother is a nurse for a doctor.

How many people live in your hometown? Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany with approximately 1.8 million people

How many times have you been to the U.S. prior to your stay here in St. Peter?  I have been to the U.S. four other times -- visiting Florida, New York and Boston, California, and Las Vegas.

What are your impressions of life at Saint Peter High School now that you have been here for more than a month? The school is beautiful and most lessons are very exciting. The students are all really friendly and helpful and the the teachers and all other staff have been great as well. This is the best school I have ever been to!

What are your favorite classes and who are some of your favorite teachers here at SPHS? My favorite class here, at the moment, is personal finance. Back in Germany it was chemistry. My favorite teachers here, so far, are Mr. Schoenborn and Mrs. Annexstad.

What other activities will you participate in during your time here at SPHS? In fall I played goalkeeper for the Saints’ C squad soccer team. In winter I will play basketball and in the spring I’m thinking about trying trapshooting or baseball.

What are some of your favorite activities/hobbies outside of school? Back in Germany, I was a firefighter, which was really the only activity I did outside of the school.

Is there any particular activity you would like to do or place you’d like to visit during your time here in Minnesota? Yes, I would like to try ice fishing and deer hunting. I would also like to visit Duluth.

What do you miss most about your life back home? Actually I am surprised about how little I miss from back home. I do miss my dog and my parents and also my fire department because they are very nice and we have a lot of fun.

How often do you stay in touch with your family/friends back home? I stay in contact with my parents and some friends every day through messages over an app called WhatsApp. I also Skype every month with my parents, my grandparents, and some friends, but I try not use Skype too much.


Host family -- Mike & Karen Leeb of rural Kasota.

Family members -- father, Domenico; mother, Paola; brother Alberto, 13; and sister, Ada, 8; and pet dog, Pedro!

Parents’ occupation(s) --  My father is editor of the local newspaper in Sicily and my mother is a doctor.

How many people live in your hometown? My hometown of Catania has about one million people and is located on the Italian island of Sicily. Catania is near the volcano ‘Etna’, the biggest active volcano in all of Europe.

How many times have you been to the U.S. prior to your stay here in St. Peter? I visited the U.S. one other time, four years ago when we visited New York City and Boston.

What are your impressions of life at Saint Peter High School now that you have been here for more than a month? Here, I really love the school, the people and my classes. It’s really different from those in Italy.

What are your favorite classes/teachers here at SPHS? It’s very hard to say which are my favorite teachers and my favorite classes, but I really like my AP chemistry class with Mrs. Roehrkasse and math class with Mr. Kennedy.

What other activities will you participate in during your time here at SPHS? I played soccer with Mr. Bollum as a fall sport and I will probably play basketball in winter.

What are some of your favorite activities/hobbies outside of school?  I really like to watch and to support the football team on Friday night with my school friends because it’s a good way to spend some time together.

Is there any particular activity you would like to do or place you’d like to visit during your time here in Minnesota? This winter I really want to go to ice fishing because it’s something new and unusual for me.

What do you miss most about your life back home? Naturally, I miss my life back home and in particular my family and the warm weather, but I’m having a good time here also, thanks to all people that support me everyday from here and from Sicily.

How often do you stay in touch with your family/friends back home?  I really don’t know how often I stay in touch with my family and my friends, but, we call each other approximately once a week with Skype or message through WhatsApp. 


Large crowd turns out for community forum on teen drug use
Kurt Hildebrandt

Event held at Saint Peter High School was hosted by MN Adult & Teen Challenge

A large crowd turned out for "A Night To Know The Truth" community forum on teen drug use, held at Saint Peter High School on Wednesday evening.

   The Q&A discussion at the Know The Truth
   community forum featured an 11-member panel.

The event was hosted by representatives from Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge and featured a program in the SPHS Performing Arts Center for parents. There, representatives from Saint Peter Public Schools, local law enforcement agencies and chemical health professionals shared information on the drug issues young people are currently facing. Two recent graduates of the Adult & Teen Challenge treatment program (Aubrey and Sam) shared their stories on their battle with addiction and Patty Ahl of Mankato, who lost her son, Alex, at age 21 to a fentanyl overdose in 2014, also spoke of her family's tragedy and how it affected their lives.

An emotional and meaningful half-hour long Q&A panel discussion wrapped up the event.

A program geared toward students, which was held in conjunction with the parent event, took place in the commons area and activities were also held in the gym. A hot dog lunch was also served prior to the parent and student programs.

Local organizations which helped put on the event, in addition to the Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge, included Saint Peter Public Schools, Nicollet County Attorney's Office, Nicollet County Sheriff's Office, St. Peter Police Department, Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force, Saint Peter Ambassador's, Saint Peter Area Ministerial Association, and St. Peter Lion's Club.

The Saint Peter Public Schools Logo
Kurt Hildebrandt


 Yana Burgess

Saint Peter High School senior Yana Burgess was recently named as a semifinalist for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship Program.

This is the 64th year of the program and Burgess was one of approximately 16,000 students from across the U.S. named as a semifinalist. Burgess, the daughter of Charles and Teresa Burgess, was selected as a semifinalist based on scores on a PSAT qualifying test. She will now compete with the other semifinalists for some 7,500 scholarships worth more than $31 million, to be awarded this spring.

“I am very excited to receive this honor, and grateful for the opportunities it could provide,” Burgess said. “Everybody wants to be good at something, and when I was in first and second grade I was determined to be one of the smart kids, and through a lot of hard work and support I have been able to achieve that goal.”

To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. Over 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing. More than 1.6 million juniors from about 22,000 high schools entered the competition by taking the 2017 Preliminary SAT. The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors and includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

“We are so proud of Yana and her academic accomplishments,” SPHS Principal Annette Engeldinger said. “She has unlimited potential, and I can’t wait to see what she achieves!”

Burgess has her sights set on attending the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and majoring in materials engineering. During her time here at SPHS she has been involved in Math League, robotics as well as track and field. She also has served as a youth soccer coach with younger players.

This is the third year in a row that SPHS has had a student recognized by the National Merit Scholarship program. Karen Chen, a 2017 SPHS graduate, and Shannon Rao, a 2018 SPHS graduate, were named National Merit Scholarship finalists. Lilly Anderson, also a 2018 SPHS graduate, was named a National Merit Scholarship commended student last year.

To learn more about the National Merit Scholarship program go to

SPHS culinary arts students enjoy ‘The Bubble’ experience
Kurt Hildebrandt

Culinary arts students in Amanda Pogatschnik’s classes at Saint Peter High School had a unique experience to start the 2018-19 school year by creating ‘The Bubble’ in their classroom.

    SPHS culinary arts students RaeLee Larson, Becca Gordy,
    Hassan Dayib, Ikzela Estrada, and Alannah Irvin check out
    'The Bubble' they helped create in Ms. Pogatschnik's 

The materials needed for the project included landscape plastic, packing tape, and a box fan. Students in her Introduction to Culinary Arts and Advanced Culinary Arts classes helped build all of the panels by cutting sheets of the landscape plastic and then taping them together. Ms. Pogatschnik helped tape the all of the sections together, inserting the box fan, and creating a door for students to enter and exit The Bubble.

“We built an environment by adding different lights, music, decorations, and snacks inside The Bubble,” she said. “Once it was inflated, students were able to make their mark by using markers and glue sticks to write and draw on the plastic. The students really took to it right away.”

"The Bubble" in SPHS culinary arts room

  The Bubble took up a good portion of the culinary arts
  classroom for a few days at the start of the new school year.

This past summer Ms. Pogatschnik was looking for a unique first-week project for her Introduction to Culinary Arts and Advanced Culinary Arts students in grades 10-12 where students could build community and understand how to develop an atmosphere. She drew from her own high school experience, when one of her classes did a similar project, and she was excited to try it again.

“The idea behind The Bubble is to have students have a hand in creating something unique while working together,” she said. “It helped give them ownership over a space and make it their own. It gave the students a place to do homework, meet each other, and relax.

“The Bubble experience has been assigned as the topic of an essay. All of my culinary arts students will write about their experience, compare it to past learning experiences, and describe how The Bubble might relate to culinary arts.”

The Bubble stayed up for the first week of school before being taken down later in the school day on Monday, but, Ms. Pogatschnik said the plan is to save the materials and reuse it again in the future.

SPHS High-STEP students take part in Orientation Night
Kurt Hildebrandt

High-STEP Academy students from Saint Peter High School participated in the Orientation Night activities on the evening of September 10 at River’s Edge Hospital here in St. Peter. The event was coordinated by Gwenn Wolters, South Central Service Cooperative, and Christi Bixby, High Step-Health Science Academy instructor.

  High-STEP instructor Christi Bixby gives a presentation
  during Orientation Night activities on September 10. 

The mission of the High-STEP program — a dynamic, regional partnership between secondary and postsecondary education, business, and community — is to provide secondary students with health science coursework and work-based learning experiences, to excite and prepare them for health science and technology careers. The program is uniquely designed to allow students who have interests and passions in health and health sciences to pursue those pathways.

Roughly 40 students and parents attended the orientation session, which included a tour of a surgical room with full scrubs on. Introductions were also presented by Bixby; Paula Meskan, River’s Edge Hospital’s chief nursing officer; Laura Attenberger of South Central College; Mandy Quist, SPHS Career and College Readiness Coordinator; and Michelle Forletti of MNVAC (Minnesota Valley Action Council).

Among the topics addressed during the orientation event included attendance, time management, volunteerism, communication, code of conduct, and dress code. Parent expectations were also addressed as well as ways parents can support their students in the High Step Academy program.