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Kenyon High School monument: 'A piece of history to be proud of'
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Last year at this time, the patch of grass west of the First Lutheran Church parking lot in Kenyon was covered with snow. 

Ken Stenzel and his crew, of K&C Construction in Faribault set the egg and scroll, along with pediments on the memorial Jan. 3-4. Despite the below freezing temperatures, the crew was able to set the brick the egg and scroll sit on with a tent and heaters. (Michelle Vlasak photos/southernminn.com)

Today, passersby may notice a familiar site, as the egg and scroll that once sat atop the Kenyon High and Grade School is now set in its new home for the foreseeable future. 

Ken Stenzel and his crew, of K&C Construction in Faribault, were hard at work Jan. 3-4 at the site of the KHS Monument. Crews not only set the egg and scroll, but also the pediments on the memorial. Despite the below freezing temperatures, the crew was able to set the brick the egg and scroll sit on with a tent and heaters. 

The old Kenyon High School building was demolished in 2013, and a committee of community members and Kenyon High School alumni have been working on a location and plan for the saved building pediments since then. 

Kenyon High School Monument Committee members are Mary Gail Flom Anderson (Class of 70), Kevin Anderson (Kenyon Historian/Publicist), Mary Danielson-Gates (Class of 61), Julie Praus (Architectural Designer), Chuck Aase (Class of 68) and Cindy Estrem Trapp (Class of 71).

Sod was removed from the site on July 14, and committee members broke ground later in the month. Footings for the pillars were complete on Aug. 6, and pillars were placed/brickwork began the following week.

Many committee members say when the physical place is gone, history can be more challenging to remember. The committee believes the planned monument is an easy way to celebrate the history in Kenyon.

Five plaques will be affixed to the back of the monument to tell the stories from the first schools built to the ones currently existing.

It was designed to sit off on an angle, as opposed to parallel with the street, so when viewers look at the monument they see the former school site off in the distance. The monument will also include a green space for a time to refresh and regenerate, to honor those who went before and educate students who continue to do so. Members also anticipate it will help teach area youth about the history of their community.

A team effort

A fund was established in March of 2013 at the Security State Bank of Kenyon by Trudy (Estrem) Strandemo, and her five siblings and mother; the Lowell and Colleen Estrem family. The fund was setup to accept donations for the creation of a monument to honor the school where many attended. 

A committee was formed not too long after the fund was established in 2013, to formally collect the funds it will take to preserve a physical reminder of school days. At the time, approximately $15,000 wsa needed to cover the removal, relocation and preservation of the pediment that housed the oldest portion of Kenyon ‘High and Grade School’ when it was built — portion of the columns, the nameplate and the egg and scroll above it.

Decorate scrolls line sit atop columns alongside the main portion of the Kenyon High School monument. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

(Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

In prior interviews, Danielson-Gates said she envisioned the new space as a place for Kenyon High School alumni and community members to recall, reminisce and even imagine the memories made at the former school. Trapp sees it standing as a remembrance of the commitment of Kenyon, along with the memories that were made throughout those years.

Of the current progress, Danielson-Gates adds “This has seemed like a long time coming. By the donations at Security State Bank and our website, we have realized that there is a ‘will’ to see this project to the end. We aren’t there yet, but we are closer than ever. We hope people will stop by, see the value in our project and help us finish it. Landscaping through the pavers and plaques on the back will be done when the weather is more friendly, and donations come in to finish it. Then we get to plan a dedication…won’t you please help us? It will be a ‘gold and maroon day’ for sure.’ Stay tuned and keep your eyes on the prize."

See khsmonument.com for more information on purchasing paver blocks to be used in the memorial.


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New 'Soul Recovery' group digs deeper on a spiritual level with recovery
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Ester Nicholson’s book, “Soul Recovery,” is said to “take the essence of the 12 steps and incorporates widely-accepted spiritual practices with a deeply compassionate approach.”

Soul Recovery meetings, held weekly in Wanamingo, are recovery-based meetings for anyone looking for healing. (Screen image capture)

Wanamingo residents Rachel Ahsenmacher and Skylee Jarvinen were both taken aback by the inspirational book, and received many benefits from incorporating it in their lives. Attending Soul Recovery meetings in Kasson and Rochester previously, Ahsenmacher took the chance to bring meetings a little closer to home.

“I have been drug and alcohol free for seven years and started going to 12-step meetings after treatment,” said Ahsenmacher. “I wanted something more, searched and found this book, ‘Soul Recovery.’ It is just an enhancement to the 12 steps.”

Ahsenmacher said her and Jarvinen wanted to give recovery back to their community and soon got together with a date and time. They met back in September, and started holding meetings in October at Joe Coffey’s JMC Properties Services building on Main Street Wanamingo.

The weekly Soul Recovery meetings provide experienced recovery support in a safe, non-judgmental environment that supports all pathways to recovery.

“Healing dependence comes in all forms, the main is drugs and alcohol, but it can really help everyone,” said Ahsenmacher. “It starts at the surface level, and shows you how to be the people we want to be, essentially.”

Attendees of the meetings go through readings of the book each week, and sometimes share personal experiences/stories/feelings before and after the readings. Ahsenmacher adds someone is available to watch children of attendees in a different room, so it can be helpful for mothers that might not be able to make it without that childcare option.

“It’s really an amazing feeling,” said Ahsenmacher in her role of bringing recovery to Wanamingo. “I sponsor other women as well, so to watch them come in broken and needing help, to find their power and growth is fulfilling.”

Ahsenmacher adds one of many benefits of the weekly meetings is that it gives people a safe place to share their story, as whatever is said stays there. She stresses the importance of people knowing they are not alone, and that they have a community of support behind them. Ahsenmacher is also grateful for Coffey and his generosity in offering his building up for their meetings.

As a member of AA, Jarvinen said Soul Recovery meetings don’t replace treatment of any kind, they are meant as a compliment to something they might already be doing. The meetings go into other aspects of healing from trauma, abuse or addiction.

While they knew each other in passing prior to their recovery, Jarvinen said her and Ahsenmacher met each other again in sobriety. So far, people have come from areas like Kenyon, Wanamingo, Zumbrota, Kasson and Rochester to the local meetings, since it is a unique 12-step program.

She has enjoyed hosting and being a part of meetings since it is a safe space to share, and validates painful experiences to help overcome them.

“Pain doesn’t just go away, you don’t just get over it. You have to acknowledge it and have a safe space to do that,” said Jarvinen. “You can’t always share your truths without feeling judged, but we are a non-judgemental group. We don’t find judgement is useful in recovery.”

Jarvinen says all feedback is based on experiences, so no one is preaching on anyone and no one feels like they’re being school on anything.

“It’s good to have some community,” said Jarvinen. “Meetings are open to anybody, come if you want, and leave if it’s not for you.”


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K-W superintendent interviews for Faribault superintendent position
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Boysen

Bryan Boysen, Kenyon-Wanamingo Public Schools superintendent and elementary principal, was one of six candidates interviewed for the superintendent position at Faribault Public Schools last week.

Faribault School Board members selected three as finalists on Jan. 8:

• Red Wing Superintendent Karsten Anderson

• Faribault High School Principal Jamie Bente

• Clear Creek-Amana Interim Superintendent Joe Brown

Finalists will meet with directors and with a group of residents, staff, and students on Jan. 20. Directors are scheduled to select a finalist on Jan. 21.

In his interview, Boysen told School Board members he put a lot of thought into applying for the position and felt he knows the area quite well. He also thanked them for the opportunity.

Boysen was selected as the new superintendent/elementary principal in May 2020. The former superintendent/elementary principal at Lyle Public School took the place of interim superintendent David Thompson and elementary principal Katy Scheurman July 1, 2020.


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Live Well Goodhue County focuses on healthier eating, increased physical activity

The work of Live Well Goodhue County is contributing to lower childhood obesity rates in Minnesota due to its focus on healthier eating and opportunities for increased physical activity.

A report prepared by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which came out within the last month, found that while one in six young people nationwide have obesity, the rates in Minnesota are much lower. Minnesota ranks 43 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in childhood obesity rates. “The findings of this report make clear that one of the key reasons for Minnesota’s lower childhood obesity rates is the ongoing work in the state to provide opportunities for children and youth to eat healthier and be more physically active. That is exactly some of the work we are engaged in,” states Megan Roschen, Live Well Goodhue County Coordinator. Some of those local projects include safe routes to school, which makes it easier and safer for kids to walk and bike to school, active recess and active classroom opportunities, community gardens, and programs such as Power of Produce (PoP) which provides support for local farmers markets.

“It has been an absolute pleasure working with Megan and Live Well Goodhue County. When we partner school and local resources together it gives us more opportunities to introduce kids to exciting ways to move and be healthy,” says Tom Horner, Wellness/Mental Health Coordinator at Pine Island School District. “One example is the active recess grant we received at Pine Island, which includes fitness and agility equipment to promote kids having more options to stay active at recess. My passion is to inspire others to live happy and healthy lives, and every child deserves these positive experiences at a young age.”

“We are so grateful for our partnership with Live Well Goodhue County on our Power of Produce program,” states Sara George, Market Manger from the Red Wing Farmers Market. “We are empowering children to make healthy eating choices from a young age by providing the $2 tokens for them each time they come to the market. But even better is that these children want to come to the market, they are begging their parents to go each week. It is creating a snowball effect, where the parents are then meeting the local farmers and having conversations around healthy eating habits. This benefits the farmers, the children, the individual families and then impacts the well-being of the community as well as our local volunteers who simply love seeing the faces of children attending the market bounce with excitement. This has been a win-win for our market.”

The Robert Wood Johnson report also found that other contributing factors to Minnesota’s lower childhood obesity rates include physical education being required in the schools, nutrition program standards and healthy food financing.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children who have obesity are more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease; increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes; breathing problems, such as asthma and sleep apnea; and joint problems, as well as other potential ailments and diseases.

“While, when compared to much of the rest of the nation Minnesota’s childhood obesity rates are positive, they are still too high, especially among certain populations. We need to continue to do everything in our power to work to drive down those rates and thereby help to improve the health of our youth,” says Kris Igo, director of the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Statewide Health Improvement, which oversees SHIP.

The findings of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s State of Childhood Obesity report came from the 2019-2020 National Survey of Children’s Health, along with analysis conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau. A full copy of the report, which includes the Minnesota findings, can be found online at stateofchildhoodobesity.org/2021report.


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