By Jayne Gibson Austin Aspires Austin Aspires and Austin Positive Action Coalition are pleased to co-sponsor the Austin Bright Spots Award.Jayne GibsonRecipients of the Bright Spots award are teachers, community members, organizations, or businesses who demonstrate compassion and availability, support and inspiration and welcome and approachability to individuals in Austin. They show care and concern and are engaged and accessible. They provide encouragement or emotional help. They react to others with enjoyment and approval and are friendly and easy to talk to. Congratulations to each of the nominees for this year’s award. The committee honored the following six nominees at the Positively Austin event held at Ruby Rupner Auditorium on Oct. 10. • Ms. Deborah Cook from Sumner Elementary School was nominated for creating a positive relationship with students by visiting them at their homes, sending postcards during breaks and donating time to get students involved in the community on weekends. Her Dressing Room project allows students to “shop” for dress outfits prior to the holiday music program so everyone can go up on stage feeling and looking like a million bucks! • Justice Tabor and Sarah Wermager were honored for the work they have done with the More Than Pink community education program. This program inspired more than 70 girls in grades third through sixth to be true to themselves and live free from societal stereotypes. Justice and Sarah served as Bright Spots to each of these young women, by being someone they could talk to, trust, reach out for support, and learn from. They served as true role models for the participants in the program. • Mr. Chandler Pratt was recognized for the compassion and calm demeanor he brings to every situation. He gives 100 percent in all aspects of life and makes those around him want to be a better person. As the nomination read, “he would give the shirt off his back if someone needed it.” • Ms. Danielle Nesvold was recognized for the many hats she wears in our community — all with the common goal of helping others. When children of her neighborhood showed an interest in what she was doing in her garage, she showed them how they too could workout, gain confidence, and live a healthier lifestyle while having fun and supporting others. The gathering of the neighborhood children to workout became known as 10th Street Muscle. Additionally, she has been an active voice to raise awareness around human trafficking, bullying, neighborhood watch and more in our community. • Ms. Gretchen Erickson’s tireless work to support readers in our community was recognized through the Bright Spots awards. Gretchen does so many things in our community to support literacy for all. One of those include the Reader’s Café that partners with the summer lunch program at IJ Holton. “Gretchen is a consummate volunteer and shows up ready to engage and work. She is a good listener and is always ready and willing to take the time to talk with children.” Congratulations to this year’s recipients of the Bright Spots Award. Thank you for making our community a brighter place for all.
44 roosters harvested during hunt AUSTIN — By all accounts, this weekend’s ninth annual Governor’s Pheasant Hunt Opener was a success. One-hundred seventy hunters joined Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Saturday in fields surrounding Austin and throughout the area to kick off the pheasant season. By day’s end, despite wet conditions and delayed field harvests, 44 roosters were taken. On Friday night, 457 people attended the community banquet. But in some ways, the success of the opener was highlighted in two different fields. Gov. Walz broke a years-in-the-making drought with a rooster in the field he was walking. “It’s been a nine-year curse at the governor’s hunt,” Walz said. “I broke it.” Elsewhere, in a field owned by Gus Maxfield, 13-year-old Preston Schlichter scored his first ever pheasant, smiling when the bird was handed to him. These were just a couple of the successes Austin and organizers can claim this weekend. “Hats off to all the people that helped,” Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener committee Chairwoman Sandy Forstner said. “There’s been a lot of people involved, and I think it’s gone as well as it could have.” The day started in picturesque form as the sun painted the landscape in a perfect fall scene. But in the field Schlichter was hunting, along with his uncle and hunter host Guy Kohlnhofer, hunter host Kirk Rolfson, and hunters Mark Norquist and Jamie Carlson, conditions quickly changed in about a half an hour. Snow began falling, and by the time hunters were showing up around 11:30 a.m. at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center to register their take, the snow changed to thick and heavy flakes. Combined with that, winds blew briskly over the fields, further complicating the hunt. In the end, the group had only a scattering of opportunities, resulting in just two birds. The second was taken by Java, Rolfson’s British labrador, who caught the bird as it was running. Yet for all of the group’s challenges, the team still found the day to be a success. “With the snow, it was better,” Carlson argued. “The sun’s out, everybody gets their limit — it’s a perfect day, fun. But these days won’t leave my memories.” “Every experience is fun,” he added. Norquist agreed. “Just being out in this beautiful country,” he said. “The winds were blowing, and it was just fun going for a walk.” Walz reported his group came across eight to nine roosters during his time in the field and they got a couple good shots off. In his mind, the day was another indicator on how the weekend went. “I couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said. “This is why we do it.” Looking back over the two days, Forstner said the event came together on all fronts, highlighting the community and the area. “I think it’s gone great,” he said. “It’s been exciting and enthusiastic, not just with the hunters, but in the community.”
Executive Director Austin Aspires
Although weather forecasts may indicate otherwise, our calendar tells us that summer is coming – and the 2018-2019 school year is almost done! This time of year generates numerous emotions for children and families alike.
It is an important time for parents to talk to their children, and really learn how they are feeling. It is also a time to be intentional about summer calendars.
Studies show that students and parents must be deliberate about how they spend the summer months to avoid the “summer slide”. “Summer learning loss equals at least one month of instruction” according to research completed by Harris Cooper. Low income students suffer a steeper rate of loss than their peers according to several studies.
The good news is families and communities, working with school districts, can make a positive difference in learning, and minimize or avoid the summer loss. Summer school is a good option offered to some students. Summer school however is not the only option.
Talk to your child and learn more about their interests. What do they want to invest their time in this summer? Is there something they have been wanting to learn more about, and haven’t yet? Summer may be the perfect time to do this!
Did you know that the Hormel Nature Center offers summer learning opportunities for students? What about the STEM Camp that is being offered at Riverland Community College for high school students? The Salvation Army offers a summer day camp program, and the many of the fitness studios in our community have options specifically designed for youth during the summer! You can learn more about some of these incredible opportunities in the Youth Activities Catalog that can be found on our website (www.austinaspires.org). Available activities vary in costs, starting at free, and some have scholarships available.
Contact the organizations directly to learn more.
By Jayne Gibson
Executive Director Austin Aspires
“Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.” ~Sherry Anderson
In 2011, a group of community leaders convened with one focus -— improve the quality of life in Austin by 2020. Hundreds of volunteers came together, inspired by successes of other communities. Ms. Jana Haynes was one of those volunteers. In 2012, she assumed the role of co-chair of the Educational Leaders Committee, one of Vision 2020’s committees. In this role, Ms. Haynes played a vital role in the creation and launch of Austin Aspires. As one of the original members of the Board of Directors, Ms. Haynes worked diligently to ensure Austin Aspires was an established 501c3, with by-laws, funding, policies and practices that ensure sustainability and success. Ms. Haynes shared a vision of high-quality education for all in our community, and it was that passion that drove the work she did for Austin Aspires.
Ms. Haynes serves as the vice president and Controller for Hormel Foods Corporation. Austin Aspires benefited greatly from her depth of education, experience and knowledge in financial policies, internal controls, financial reporting, general accounting and tax law.
Mr. Jim Snee, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Hormel Foods Corporation, also acknowledged the vital role that Ms. Haynes played in her role as an Austin Aspires Board Member. “I would like to thank Jana for her commitment to education and service to the Austin Aspires Board of Directors. Jana’s professionalism and financial and business acumen will leave a lasting legacy for the Austin Aspires organization as they continue their critical mission of improving education in this community.”
The end of December 2018 marked the completion of Ms. Haynes time as an official member of the Austin Aspires Board. Although she will no longer play an official role in the organization, her lasting impact will be evident throughout the operation. On behalf of Austin Aspires, we want to publicly acknowledge Ms. Haynes for the incredible work she has done as a board member. We are extremely grateful to Ms. Haynes for the sharing of her time, wisdom and passion for others.
Ms. Jill Andrews has been elected to replace Ms. Haynes on the Austin Aspires Board of Directors.
By Jayne Gibson
Executive Director, Austin Aspires
If you were told there was one thing that you could do for your three- or four-year-old child today that would impact him/her through age 40 and beyond, would you do it? The Perry Preschool Study, https://highscope.org/perrypreschoolstudy, is a study that was started in the 1960’s, yet still relevant today.
In this study, from 1962-1967, 123 children ages 3 and 4, each of them born in poverty and at high risk of failing in school, were randomly divided into two groups. Children designated as the “program group” entered high-quality preschool programming. The “comparison group” received no preschool programming. The most recent phase of this study was completed in the early 2000s, when participants were in their 40s.
This final phase interviewed 97 percent of the participants that were still living at age 40. They learned that the adults from the “program group” (those who attended preschool) had higher earnings, committed fewer crimes, were more likely to hold a job, and were more likely to have graduated from high school than their peers from the “comparison group” (those who did not receive preschool programming). Enrolling your child in preschool impacts more than just a couple of years of your child’s life. It has truly long-lasting results.
We are fortunate in our community to have a number of high-quality preschool programs for our children! Your chance to learn more about each of these programs is right around the corner. On Saturday, Jan. 12, the Mower County Preschool Showcase will happen from 10 a.m. to noon at the Austin High School Hastings Gym. This showcase is designed to be a one-stop-shop for all things preschool.
You will learn more about each of the preschools in our community, transportation, extracurricular activities, scholarships and more.
You don’t want to miss this amazing opportunity! There is absolutely no cost to attend and it is open to everyone!
There will be activities for the preschool aged child, as well as information for parents. This event will not include registration for preschool. That will happen at a later date at each individual preschool.
Instead, this is an opportunity for you to find the preschool that best meets the needs of your learner and your family. We hope to see you there!
By Jayne Gibson
Executive Director Austin Aspires
By 2020, an estimated two-thirds of job openings will require postsecondary education or training, according to some reports. Previous graduates of high schools in Austin may have found obtaining postsecondary education or training to be financially challenging or even cost prohibitive. Earlier this year, the Hormel Foundation announced The Austin Assurance Scholarship program, removing financial barriers for many of this spring’s graduates.
This generous donation provides eligible Austin and Pacelli High Schools’ graduates the opportunity to attend any Riverland Community College campus for little to no cost. The Foundation, along with a team of educators representing Austin Public Schools, Pacelli Catholic Schools and Riverland Community College worked diligently to define the scholarship criteria. The criterion was developed in a manner to ensure every student that demonstrates desire and readiness for higher education will have access to this program.
The main qualifiers for this scholarship include: students must successfully graduate from one of the high schools located in Austin, they must live in Austin, and they must complete a number of community volunteer hours. The scholarship can be used at any of the Riverland Community College campuses, including Austin, Albert Lea and Owatonna. Local ninth through 12th graders recently learned the details of the program in an assembly held at their school. With the assistance of high school and college staff, 12th graders completed the scholarship application, even if they weren’t sure their path was going to take them to Riverland immediately after graduation. Qualifying students have up to five years to use the scholarship in some circumstances.
This scholarship program is not only great for the scholarly recipients; it is a big win for our community. Recruiting managers and human resource departments can share information about this unique scholarship program when working with candidates outside of our community to fill unfilled job openings. Community employers can work directly with Riverland to train and recruit their future work force needs through this program. Non-profit and service organizations will benefit from providing students an opportunity to grow through volunteerism.
Would you like to learn more about this scholarship? Additional information can be found on the web site at https://austinassurance.org.