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New school year at SCC starts with emphasis on student resources

College students’ lives get busy quickly after the first week of the academic year, and with so much focus on school, it can slip their minds to consider the resources they may need outside of class.

With that understanding, South Central College put an extra focus on community resources during Welcome Week, Aug. 26 to 29.

“We want students to feel energized,” said Judy Endres, associate vice president of student affairs. “… This campus is here for them, and we want everyone to succeed.”

The Community Resource Fair, which usually takes place later in the fall, was bumped up to the first week of school. That way, students could stop at various booths to and from class to learn about health, the city’s library, the military and a variety of services offered in Faribault and Rice County.

Sheila Karn, a student and School Senate member, said the vendors available at the Community Resource Fair are helpful to her because she knows there’s support for parents like her who return to college.

“A lot of things [presented at the resource fair] have been in the community our whole lives, but people don’t know about them,” said Karn, who is originally from Faribault.

For the first time this year, this event was organized by the campus’ new social worker, Candace Ballstadt. The social worker position, located on both the Faribault and North Mankato campuses with two new staff members, was initiated by student request.

An office in the lower level of South Central College was re-purposed for the new campus social worker, Candace Ballstadt. This space includes a quiet room, a room for nursing mothers, and a wide variety of resource pamphlets. (Misty Schwab/Faribault Daily News)

Ballstadt began her part-time position in May and said her role involves seeing the big picture of students’ lives and helping them “connect the dots.”

“If there is a barrier, my job is to help them figure out how to overcome it,” said Ballstadt. “My goal is not to do it for them, but to walk them through it.”

Her office, located in the lower level of the South Central College, is a repurposed Community Resource Center. In front of the help desk, there’s a rack full of pamphlets to connect students with health services and other resources. This center also includes a quiet room for prayer, meditation and decompressing as well as a room for nursing mothers. In the general area, Ballstadt provides coffee, tea and snacks for anyone who steps inside needing a break or advice.

SCC also partners with St. Vincent dePaul to provide a clothing closet in the Community Resource Center. Items in this room are particularly useful to student workers and interns who need business attire for job interviews. The room also contains a wide array of scrubs for nursing students, and hygiene products are available in the Campus Cupboard.

Judy Endres, associate vice president of student affairs at SCC, said the idea of holistic support began with a student survey. Students were asked to share in which areas the campus fell short, and the response indicated they wanted increased access to these resources.

A volunteer through AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) helped the campus build new infrastructure that will support its students.

“Our students are really involved in the creation and making all these programs happen,” said Endres. “… They want to help plan it, and we want to support them.”

Karn, a social work major with an emphasis in addiction, believes SCC is the best of the four colleges she’s attended. And even though she’s not in her late teens or early 20s like many students, she feels welcome among her campus family.

“It’s very student-oriented, and that makes me proud to be here,” said Karn. “I never want to leave!”


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Steam & Gas Engines Show offers new attractions, old favorites

With new attractions accompanying hundreds of antique tractors and machines, the 45th annual Rice County Steam and Gas Engines show promises an enjoyable few days of family-friendly entertainment.

The show runs through Sunday at the Rice County Steam and Gas Engines showgrounds on Hwy. 3 just south of Dundas. This year’s show features many of the same antique attractions that have long made the show a family-friendly favorite. In 1998, Steam & Gas Engines was able to acquire the sizable farm it sits on today, giving it ample room to add buildings and expand the show.

The show’s expansion included adding Friday as an extra show day. Steam & Gas Engines Show President Roger Janek said that by adding Friday, Steam & Gas Engines was able to ensure that the show will take place for at least two solid days even if Saturday or Sunday or are rained out. Thankfully, inclement weather doesn’t seem to be in the cards this year.

This year’s big new attraction is the brand new “Rice County Northern Railroad.” The gas-powered miniature train can be ridden by the public with a Steam and Gas Engines volunteer in the “engineer’s seat.” Collectively, the train’s cars weigh more than 1,000 pounds.

The train cars run on a rail of more than 1,000 feet that was painstakingly laid by the Rice County Steam and Gas Engines volunteer team. Running against the clock, the volunteer team managed to get all 1,000 feet of track laid this summer, just in time for the show.

The cornerstone of the event is the hundreds of antique tractors that will be on display. The Steam & Gas Engines show showcases a different tractor brand each year over an eight year cycle. This year, International Harvester is the featured tractor brand. Janak said that this year’s show includes a relatively large number of tractors because of International Harvester’s broad popularity.

The tractors are showcased each day at noon in the tractor parade, with a color guard leading the procession. The tractor pull will be held at 9 a.m. Sunday, with the kids tractor pedal pull at 2 p.m. Saturday. In keeping with the theme, International Harvester parts are on display.

The show lives up to its motto of “Preserving a bit of yesterday for tomorrow” by showcasing far more than just antique tractors but a variety of other antique machinery. A corn sheller, sawmill and blacksmithing demonstrations are among the show’s most popular. In addition, car buffs are sure to enjoy the classic cars and trucks on display.

Household antique items like an antique stove, sewing machine, small organ and much more will be on display in the Drentlaw House. Built in 1888 and expanded in 1914, the Drentlaw House has sat on the Steam and Gas Engines showgrounds since it was donated by the family 2007.

Each day, live music will be provided by local bands in the main shed. A flea market will be held with vendors selling an assortment of antique goods, from tractors and machine parts to literature and furniture.

Horse-drawn carriage rides will be available for those who want to tour the showgrounds in style. As for more modern attractions, food trucks are on site and a bounce house provides extra entertainment for kids.

With an agreeable weather forecast, new attractions and a particularly popular tractor brand on feature, Janek says he’s optimistic that this year’s Steam and Gas Engines show will be one to remember.


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Task force bust turns up nearly 1,000 oxycodone pills

Task force agents this week busted a local man allegedly in possession of nearly 1,000 oxycodone pills and other illegal drugs worth nearly $100,000.

A release from Le Sueur County Sheriff Brett Mason announced that agents with the Cannon River Drug and Violent Offender Task Force, assisted by the Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Office, Rice County Sheriff’s Office and Montgomery Police Department, executed a search warrant Wednesday for Gilberto Martinez Jr., 41, along with his residence located at 714 Mill Avenue No. 34, Montgomery. The search warrant was obtained after an ongoing narcotics investigation involving Martinez.

As a result of the search warrant, 47 grams of cocaine, 6.8 grams of methamphetamine, 979 oxycodone pills and 73 ecstasy tablets were seized. Gilberto Martinez Jr. is being held in the Le Sueur County jail on $1.5 million bond with conditions, $2 million without. He has been charged with two counts of first-degree sales, one count of first-degree possession and other controlled substance crimes.

The total estimated street value of all the drugs seized is $95,748. The street value was determined by statewide averages and sometimes that is broken down to the gram and milligram level.

Cannon River Task Force Commander Paul LaRoche noted the investigation is still active and ongoing, and the ocycodone pills confiscated are being tested for any other substances. LaRoche said the 979 oxycodone pills stand out among the items seized.

“The pill number is quite high,” he said. “They are potentially very dangerous pills. It’s rare to find someone in possession of that many.”

Overall, LaRoche was happy with the work of his agents in another bust by the Cannon River Task Force. In the last year, the task force, which has been recognized as tops in the state, has been involved in several high-profile arrests that have netted hundreds of pounds of illegal substances, including methamphetamine and heroin.

“It was another great case by our agents, working hard to get as much off the streets as we can and hold the upper level dealers accountable,” he said.


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2 dead after car crashes trying to flee police in Owatonna

An Owatonna man and a Rochester woman were killed Thursday as they tried to flee police at a high rate of speed and wrecked their car into a traffic light in Owatonna.

Louis Duane Bennett, 42, and Sauda Abubakar Maani, 24, were pronounced dead at the scene on the Bridge Street exit off of Interstate 35.

According to a statement by the Owatonna Police, the crash occur after police were called to the 100-200 block of 21st Street NW in Owatonna about 11:40 Thursday morning on a report of a domestic assault of a man hitting a woman. By the time police arrived, however, the vehicle in which they were traveling had left the scene.

Police saw the vehicle — a 2002 BMW 3251 — shortly thereafter traveling west on 26th Street NW near I-35. When police tried to stop the vehicle, the driver, later identified as Bennett, turned onto the southbound interstate and fled police at a high rate of speed with the police in pursuit.

The vehicle exited the interstate on the Bridge Street exit, colliding into the pole at the end of the off-ramp, police say.

Both Bennett and Maani were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash, according to the Minnesota State Patrol, who are investigating the crash. Alcohol was not involved in the crash, the patrol reports.

In addition to the Owatonna Police and the state patrol, the Steele County Sheriff’s Office, Owatonna Fire Department and Mayo Ambulance responded to the scene.