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Congratulations to Casey Nelson, head custodian at Hayes Elementary School, who earned the Fridley Public Schools November Employee of the Month Award! He has been working for Fridley Public Schools since 2014.
Casey’s strong work ethic and positive attitude has always been apparent. According to Hayes Principal John Piotraschke, Casey worked tirelessly over the summer to make the school a welcoming building for staff and students when they returned to school.
“His work ethic shined in all he did; from the shining floors, to the clean sinks, to setting the rooms back up in order,” Piotraschke said. “At the start of the school year, no task was too small or too big for Casey to finish and his efforts to create a nurturing environment for our kids, staff, and families is evident in every corner of the school.”
Karin Beckstrand, a music teacher and instructional leader at Hayes, nominated Casey for the award. Beckstrand said he was a standout employee over the summer. “As the summer learning academy was going on, Casey was still present and available and also recognized the needs of the students being served,” she said.
Beckstrand added that Casey’s smile never wavered from his face and his relationships with those who were present in the summer were superb. “He is very deserving of this award,” she said.
Jill Klym, Spanish language teacher at Hayes, also nominated Casey. “Casey is always willing and able to help solve problems in the building,” Klym said. “His work ethic is amazing.”
Casey’s supervisor, Director of Buildings and Grounds Jason Bichler, said he is a valuable asset to the custodial team.
“He puts his best effort into doing whatever needs to be done,” Bichler said. “He approaches every day at work with a great attitude and is willing to go above and beyond to make sure that the task at hand gets accomplished correctly.”
“His commitment to the staff and students at Hayes Elementary is simply commendable,” said Piotraschke. “He is very deserving of the honor of Employee of the Month.”
Congratulations Casey, and thank you for all that you do!
Fridley Middle School held its annual Veteran’s Day Program on November 8, 2017. The program, now in its 31st year, is held to honor and pay tribute to United States military veterans. It is meant to help students understand and respect the dedication and sacrifice of military service members.
Veterans from the community, including members of the Fridley American Legion and Fridley Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 363, were present and received recognition. Minnesota Honor Guard began and closed the ceremony with the Presentation of Colors. The Fridley High School Concert Choir, Fridley Middle School 8th Grade Choir and 8th Grade Band, performed traditional military songs during the event.
“This has been a tradition at Fridley Middle School for many years,” Principal Amy Cochran said. “I think it’s a fantastic way for our students to honor veterans.”
Cochran added that the event is special to her because she comes from a family of veterans. “My dad, my brother and my daughter’s father are all veterans, so it’s really near and dear to my heart,” she said.
Prior to the event, students at Fridley Middle School learn about the significance and history of Veteran’s Day in class.
“We spend time talking about veterans, what Veteran’s Day means in our country. We do some background work with what Veteran’s Day is first, and I think that really shows through the program,” Cochran said.
The program featured three 8th grade student speakers who talked about their experiences and relationships with veterans in their lives.
Tim Yocum shared the experience of his neighbor and World War II veteran Delaine Hovey, who was drafted to the United States Army and served for two years from 1944-1946. Hovey also received special military police training in Trinidad.
Vanessa Lor spoke about her grandfather, Neo Chee Xiong, who was drafted in the Laos Army in 1965 for the Vietnam War. He was part of the Royal Laos Army group and helped families in Laos escape from the Vietnamese.
Christina Hoglund shared the story of her uncle, Todd Luken, who enlisted in the United States Army at age 17. After basic and specialized training, he was deployed to Iraq for 18 months. He was a chaplain who led church services and helped others with Bible studies and counseling.
Fridley Middle School welcomed back former principal and current Spring Lake Park High School principal Matthew Boucher as the keynote speaker. Boucher is a veteran of the Army National Guard, serving as an infantryman and a MTSO for 12 years. While principal of Fridley Middle School, he assisted with the Veteran’s Day Program for many years.
Fridley American Legion Commander Kevin Tikkanen said he and his group have been attending the program for many years.
“This program really means a lot to us,” Tikkanen said. “We are always very impressed by the students here.”
He added that the group is glad to contribute to the Fridley schools and invest in students, as Children & Youth is one of the four pillars that the American Legion is founded on.
“We like to give out scholarships and donate to the schools,” Tikkanen said. “We try to do that so we can have these young kids in our community grow up and love their country, and hopefully won’t have to fight for it. They can enjoy their lives and grow up as kids.”
Over 1,000 students gathered at Fridley High School to prepare for upcoming state legislative simulation
On Saturday, October 28, 2017, the Fridley Youth In Government (YIG) Delegation hosted a statewide training event at Fridley High School to prepare for the Model Assembly Session.
Operated by the Minnesota YMCA, YIG is an experiential learning program for middle school and high school students, teaching youth about how state and world government works. The program offers two options, the Model Assembly, which simulates a state government legislative session, or Model United Nations, a simulation of students representing different countries to solve global problems.
Training at LAUNCH
The Saturday event, called LAUNCH, was a day-long training session to help students prepare to participate in their program areas at the Model Assembly, including the House, Senate, Supreme Court, Lobbyists, Media, among others.
In the morning, students began by attending sessions that offer an overview of a program area of their interest. In the afternoon, students attend in-depth breakout sessions to prepare for their roles. Classes include “How to Present Your Bill,” “Investigative Reporting,” or “How to Write a Supreme Court Brief,” depending on which pathway students choose. Other classes like “YIG Life,” focus on public speaking and first-time YIG experiences. All classes are designed to inform and prepare students for the Model Assembly.
A unique aspect about YIG is that it is student-run. Students who have participated in YIG over previous years teach the classes that other YIG members attend. Of the Fridley delegation, senior Nic Fite and junior Samantha Broadhead taught classes to their fellow YIG members. As experts in their fields, both students led classes and gave advice on how to be successful at the Model Assembly. As a student-run program, leadership roles are also voted on by participants. Elected officials train throughout the year with YMCA leaders and choose their own teams of student applicants. Students also have the final say in all decisions and vote as delegations, from election laws to program changes.
Fun and experiential learning
Students participate in YIG through clubs called delegations, which are typically operated by community organizations. Fridley High School’s YIG program is one of the largest, as it is one of the only clubs operated by a school.
Steve Holt, one of the advisors of YIG at Fridley High School, emphasized the educational component of the program. “They get a great civics education about state government, how to be involved and how to make change; and because it’s student run, they learn a lot about leadership, self-confidence and public speaking.”
In a conference-like setting, students stay at the Hilton Minneapolis to attend the four-day event. Holt said many students start out in the program because they want a weekend away, but in turn, they get hooked by the unique experience and in-depth lesson in the functions of state government.
“They might go for the fun activities, but they learn so much more about how government works in a much bigger picture than you could really teach in a class, especially for a student who might not be interested in it at first.”
Fridley High alumna Abby Rimes is now a program specialist in the Lobbyist program at YIG. She began her YIG journey as a student at Fridley Middle School.
She admits that what first intrigued her about the program was that it was an opportunity to hang out with friends at a hotel.
“If this is the reason that draws other students to the program, then that’s great, because when they get there, they learn so much without realizing it,” Rimes shared.
She said the program is designed to inspire independence, self-growth and a sense of responsibility and truly changed her life.
“Before YIG, I didn't even know a life in public service was an option. Learning about civic engagement at such a young age changed my entire career path,” she said.
After graduating from Fridley High School, Rimes attended Bethel University and majored in Political Science and Rhetorical Communication. During college, she interned for a political campaign and upon graduation, began working for U.S. Congressman Tom Emmer. She currently serves on his staff as his Press Secretary.
She said she continues to participate in the program because it is rewarding to be able to give back to the program that gave her so much, as it is an opportunity to teach others and watch students grow.
Rimes added that there has been a great legacy created at Fridley by former delegations.
“That legacy created a pathway for me and others to come join YIG and have a place in the fray,” Rimes said. “Having delegation directors like Mr. Holt and Mr. Myrha make Fridley's delegation what it is and make it so easy to jump right into the program itself.”
An opportunity for everyone
The Fridley YIG program continues to thrive, and it is important to the delegation’s leaders to offer the opportunity to everyone.
“We’ve managed to keep our numbers,” Holt said. “That was always my big concern because it kept getting more expensive, from $280 to $440 which is now the full cost.”
In the Fridley delegation, about two-thirds of the participating students receive some sort of financial aid. Other than fundraising operated by the club, many students are able to participate because of funding from the Fridley Lions Club and the Northwest Suburban Integration School District (NWSISD). Another funding opportunity is offered through Ann Bancroft Foundation grants, which are one-time scholarships for girls in need of funds for leadership opportunities.
“After a student has one year of participation, they’re hooked,” Holt said. “So we want to find ways to raise money for everyone to be a part of this. Kids just get so engaged, you really do see the difference in students, especially in public speaking. It’s just really neat to see them grow in that way.”
The district congratulates and welcomes two incumbents, Mary Kay Delvo and Carol Thornton, along with newcomer Avonna Starck, to the Fridley School Board following results of the November 7, 2017 election.
The three seats that were up for re-election this year belonged to Delvo, Thornton, and current board chair Marcia Lindbald, who did not run for re-election.
Avonna Starck is a 10-year Fridley resident and works as an Annual Fund Coordinator for the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. Starck said she ran for Fridley School Board because she wants to work hard to support all students in achieving their scholastic, athletic, and social experiences within the district. Starck said one of her goals is to create an open dialogue with parents to address questions or ideas they may have.
Starck said, "I'm thankful to everyone who took time out of their busy day to vote. Your support of our students and schools is valued. I look forward to joining a great team of dedicated people with the same goal of helping Fridley flourish. I'm excited to lend my expertise and experience to supporting our wonderful district."
Incumbent Carol Thornton has been serving on the Fridley School Board since December 2016 after being appointed to complete a term of board member who resigned. She said her experience this past year as a member of the school board has been an eye-opener in terms of understanding the needs of our students and families, the value of this district to the community, and the collaborative work that is behind providing the best education for our students.
"I would like to thank everyone who voted," Thornton said. "I look forward to serving students, families and the community of Fridley by ensuring that our children have the best education that we can give them."
Mary Kay Delvo
Incumbent Mary Kay Delvo has lived in Fridley since 1997 and has served on the Fridley School Board since 2013. She said she is incredibly invested in following through on the work that the School Board has been doing.
Delvo said, "I would like to thank all those who took the time to vote in school board elections. To be re-elected is humbling validation for the work of the existing board and I am honored to be in a position to keep my eye on the ball so the Fridley District continues to reach higher and give its best to students, staff, families, teachers, administrators and the surrounding Fridley community."