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Logan Meyers

KW’s Logan Meyers faces off against Triton’s Mason Barker. Both KW and Triton will shift from the Hiawatha Valley League to the Gopher Conference in 2021.

GALLERY: K-W modifies commencement, adds parade to honor the class of 2020

Although the class of 2020 had to overcome many challenges this spring, like missing many of the memorable events of their senior year, a common thread was found in all graduation ceremonies — no matter how they were held. In a time where unprecedented circumstances are the norm, the class of 2020 found thoughtful ways to make the best of those challenges, and graduation ceremonies came with no exception.

Parents capture their graduate moving the tassel from one side to the other. (Michelle Vlasak/The Kenyon Leader)

“It’s unfortunate, but it will definitely be memorable,” said Kenyon-Wanamingo senior Nora Woock of the circumstances in her welcome address during K-W’s modified graduation ceremony Sunday in the high school parking lot.

Nora Woock gives the welcome address at Sunday’s graduation ceremony.

Graduates and their families park one space away from one another to abide by social distancing guidelines. (Michelle Vlasak/The Kenyon Leader)

Chloe Olson poses for a photo with Myles before the graduation ceremony begins.

Instead of graduates entering on foot in front of an audience, they entered via vehicles driven by family members. While equipped with masks and gloves, K-W FACS teacher Stacy Quam, foreign language teacher Anna Bauer and Counselor Whitney Bartholome handed out programs, diplomas, transcripts and class flowers, as well as honor cords for those who met the criteria, as graduates entered the parking lot. Families sat in the beds of pickup trucks, lawn chairs near their vehicles or in the inside of their vehicles to listen to the ceremony live via KDHL radio. The ceremony was also live-streamed on the K-W Band and Choir Facebook pages. Even though graduates were 6 feet (or more) apart, they were still together to close an important chapter of their lives.

Before the ceremony, members of the K-W staff hand out programs, diplomas, transcripts, class flowers and honor cords as graduates pulled into the parking lot with their families. Pictured from left, FACS Teacher Stacy Quam, Foreign Language Teacher Anna Bauer and Counselor Whitney Bartholome.

A portion of the parking lot was designated for senior and their families to park their vehicles in front of the school. Each graduate was assigned one parking spot and one vehicle was allowed per graduate. Parking for additional guests was available in the west end of the student parking lot and on the street.

Chloe Olson poses for a photo with Myles before the graduation ceremony begins.

Through the decorations placed on vehicles, smiles pasted on graduates’ faces, high spirited senior’s speeches and the beautiful 70-degree weather, the K-W class of 2020 graduation ceremony was truly one to remember.

Daniel Benrud gives an approving “thumbs up” to his sign adhered to the side of his family’s vehicle.

Riley Horn sits in the sunroof of his family’s vehicle during the outdoor graduation ceremony Sunday.

Graduate Taylor Kish poses for a photo with her parents Jeremy and Stephanie moments before the ceremony begins.

In his senior reflection speech, Cole Flom said, “We will go down in history as the kids that were stripped of their senior year. The class of 2020 that sacrificed the back half of their senior year to do their part helping the world overcome these troubling times.”

Senior Cole Flom gives the student reflection.

Although the setting wasn’t as traditional as past years, the ceremony followed a similar script as the traditional indoor ceremony by including the national anthem sung by a senior, student speeches, recognition of honor students and National Honor Society members and an introduction of the class of 2020.

This year, senior Isabelle Patterson had the honor of singing the national anthem. towards the end of the introduction of the class of 2020, K-W High School Principal Matt Ryan led the group in a moment of silence to remember Taylor Sletten, who also would have graduated Sunday.

In Flom’s reflection, he took time to note that although her life ended early, she is still a part of the K-W class of 2020 family and he knew she was with them during the ceremony.

Karlie Hodgman and her family sit comfortably in chairs in the school’s parking lot to watch the ceremony. (Michelle Vlasak/The Kenyon Leader)

Isabelle Patterson gears up to sing the National Anthem.

K-W High School Principal Matt Ryan announces honor students, NHS students and introduces the class of 2020 during the unique ceremony. (Photos by Michelle Vlasak/The Kenyon Leader)

While it wasn’t the format many seniors expected of their graduation ceremon, Madi Luebke and Ally Peterson said they were happy with what was planned to make the day memorable.

Cousins Madi Luebke, left, and Ally Peterson pose for a socially-distanced photo in front of Kenyon-Wanamingo High/Middle School at Sunday’s ceremony.

Luebke added, “I would’ve much rather had this than something virtual.”

Sydney Burow concludes the ceremony with the farewell address.

Sydney Burow took time to voice her opinions on the last two months during her farewell address, saying how many are likely feeling.

“It seems crazy to me that I have not seen most of you guys in over two months and already we have to say our goodbyes,” said Burow during her speech. Whenever we imagined what this day would be like, I don’t think anyone could have envisioned it would look like this. But, we have adapted to all the changes that have come our way and we are finally here, together for the last time.”

Family of Cera Crouse gather along the parade route near the K-W High/Middle School to cheer her on with a homemade sign. (Michelle Vlasak/The Kenyon Leader)

Parades have become commonplace for celebrating birthdays and other recognition, and schools, including K-W, adopted the practice.

Thomas Haasnoot rides in style during the parade in one of the Kenyon Volunteer Fire Department’s trucks. (Michelle Vlasak/The Kenyon Leader)

Ellie Benson holds onto her hat during the parade in Kenyon following the ceremony. (Michelle Vlasak/The Kenyon Leader)

New this year, to help make the day more memorable for seniors, all graduates were invited to join a parade through Kenyon and Wanamingo. The parade began in Kenyon and traveled to Wanamingo on County Road 12 to the north side of Wanamingo. Joining the seniors were members of the Kenyon Police, Kenyon Fire, and Wanamingo Fire departments, and the school’s SRO Jeff Sjoblom with Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office.

Chloe Olson sits in the sunroof of her family’s truck during the K-W Graduation Parade. (Michelle Vlasak/The Kenyon Leader)

Graduates and their families decorated their vehicles with balloons, signs and writing to celebrate their special day. Seniors sat in the back of trucks on chairs, stood out of sunroofs, sat in the back of a classic car or waved out the windows of their cars to families, friends and members of both communities, as they lined the streets to show support of the class of 2020 with pom poms, signs and cheer.

Unifying signs are adhered to the side’s of vehicles during the parade.

Local designer reveals Wanamingo's new city logo

On April 28, the city of Wanamingo began rolling out its new logo and brand identity on the city’s official Facebook page.

The logo and brand identity — visible elements of a brand, such as color, design and logo, that identify and distinguish the brand in people’s minds — was created by professional brand designer William Weigel, 27-year Wanamingo resident, to give the city a bold brand identity as it continues to grow.

Weigel’s interest in design developed “naturally” as he began to realize the resourcefulness that can come with being able to do more parts of a project himself, especially through performing with his high school metal band making items such as T-shirts. After he left the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2007, his interest in the profession peaked at a more intentional level, and he began helping businesses brand themselves in 2013.

“One of the first bigger projects I had was for a church, where I developed all the logo, typography colors, and created a tranquil website design with a cohesive look and voice,” said Weigel. “It was more so by resourcefulness to make an impact on organizations whether my own, or eventually being hired out by others I wasn’t involved in.”

Although Weigel was a “little bit” surprised to be selected to create the city’s new logo and brand identity, he was “very excited” when the opportunity arose.

“I had always [wondered] how I would make an impact in my own town using the skills and resources I have, especially since I don’t have a traditional brick and mortar in Wanamingo,” said Weigel of the opportunity. “It’s just been humbling, honoring and surreal to see it coming to life, and taking shape throughout the whole process.”

A press release from Weigel on behalf of the city of Wanamingo states the previous logo was created in 2003 to celebrate Wanamingo’s bicentennial. Seventeen years later, the bicentennial logo has pose several challenges for the city to use in modern applications, including smartphones and web browsers. At a Wanamingo City Council meeting last year, Council member Stuart Ohr suggested it was time for a new logo. The council agreed.

Weigel said another driving force in addition to the suggested revamp was the strong desire to create “appealing” signage near the new roundabout at the new intersection of Minnesota Highway 57 and 60.

Mayor Ryan Holmes said, “The goal was to create a logo that would be recognizable and help people discover and rediscover all Wanamingo has to offer.”

The appealing logo design and use of the yellow, blue and green colors work together to represent the city’s history, values and vision for the future. In contrast to the old logo, Weigel said the new logo utilizes minimal shapes rather than any direct icon of the city.

“Green rolling hills remember the city’s agricultural foundation, a blue curved line symbolizes the river and the city’s strength and the golden sun conveys the city welcoming residents, businesses and visitors,” wrote Weigel in the release.

As Holmes reflected on the city’s new look he said, “Wanamingo has a bright future, and we are excited to showcase it with our new branding.”

Weigel led the process in three phases — discovery, direction and design.

By Weigel’s request, City Administrator Michael Boulton assembled a brand discovery committee that included Holmes, Ohr, Nicole Holmes, Jesse Steberg, Barney Nesseth, Larry VanDeWalker and Lindsey Fulton.

For Boulton the highlight of the process was “when the brand discovery committee met and discussed their love for the community and all the positive goings-on around town and planned future growth. This part of the process got the committee excited about what Wanamingo has and will have to offer.”

Weigel, too, enjoyed working with the committee, having the discovery meetings and learning more about where the town is today, compared to where it was 15 years ago.

“[The discovery meetings with the committee] were really helpful…hearing all those different voices was really cool to hear where the cities been growing, where we are at now and where we will be headed,” said Weigel. “Having finally landed on the design for the project and getting excitement about the project was really fun.

The release states the city will progressively roll out applications of the new branding, which include stationery, golf cart permits and the official city Facebook page. Other planned applications include a redesigned website, city vehicle decals, city staff shirts, main street light pole banners, various signs around town and promotional stickers for the public.

Weigel said he currently has consultations set up with different companies to design the website for the city, one of several more “noticeable” differences for the community to view.

Four K-W FFA members earn top honors at virtual state convention

Though held in a different format for the first time in 90 years, the show still went on in celebration of FFA members’ accomplishments.

The 2020 Minnesota State FFA Convention was held virtually from May 19-21.

Locally, Kenyon-Wanamingo FFA President Isabelle Patterson, Vice President Michael Pliscott, Secretary Owen Scheffler and Treasurer Charlie Sevareid were among the hundreds of FFA members recognized over the three-day convention.

Patterson, Pliscott, Scheffler and Sevareid all received the Minnesota FFA State Degree, while Patterson was also the Proficiency Winner in Swine Production Entrepreneurship.

A top honor

The State FFA Degree is given to the top members of a State FFA Association each year. This is the highest degree a state can offer and FFA members must meet several requirements — like receiving the Chapter FFA Degree, being an active FFA member for at least two years and completing community service hours.

Although the process of applying for the State FFA Degree is lengthy and includes a 17-page application, many of the recipients agree that it was well worth the time, especially considering all of the things they’ve learned over their years as an FFA member.

For Patterson, filling out the application helped her notice how big of a role FFA has played in her life. She also noted seeing the progression from when she was an eighth grader to now, as a senior, is “pretty cool.”

“You don’t always think about the things you’re doing and the activities you’re involved in,” said Patterson of filling out the application. “When you have to sit down and put them all down on one sheet of paper, it made me realize how much FFA is a part of my life, whether I thought it or not.”

The State FFA Convention is held at the University of Minnesota campus in the Twin Cities. Typically, members are welcomed on stage to receive their award. Due to COVID-19, this could not be done.

“It was a bummer not to walk in front of other people on the stage,” said Sevareid of the virtual format. “It would have really been something to walk across the stage … in my mind, [this is something] you can only experience once. It’s a great accomplishment in my mind.”

Scheffler found he already had most of the information needed for the State Degree application written down in his Dairy Production Placement application. He said the only thing he added in was his community service hours, noting that “most of the hard work” was already complete.

Though three senior K-W FFA members are closing one chapter of their lives, after graduating high school, members can work toward the “coveted” American FFA Degree — awarded at the National FFA Convention & Expo each year to less than 1% of FFA members, making it one of the organization’s highest honors. Patterson, Scheffler and Sevareid plan to apply for the American FFA Degree next year when they are eligible.

Learning by doing

Proficiency awards are based on a member’s Supervised Agricultural Experience and recognize individual skills and career-based successes. There are four application types members can fill out: entrepreneurship, placement, combined and research.

In entrepreneurship, the category Patterson received recognition in, members own an enterprise through which he/she plans, implements, operates and assumes financial risks to produce products or provide services in one or more agriculture, food and natural resource pathways.

Country Girl Show Pigs is a partnership made up of Patterson and her three sisters Maddie, Julia and Leia. Patterson says their parents played a large role in helping them get started and figuring things out along the way. This year Patterson says they have about 490 sows and 30 litters in their show pig operation and set out to not only produce show pigs that the four girls can show themselves, but also to sell to other customers.

“We want to get people in the show ring and have fun,” said Patterson of Country Girl Show Pigs. “But also to be able to do it for a reasonable price. We don’t want to buy an expensive pig to just get turned into bacon.”

Running the eight-year business has also helped Patterson learn many things she will use throughout her life.

“It might be cliche, but I definitely learned hard work and how to set a goal and work for what you want,” said Patterson of running the business. “It’s not just going to come to you if you don’t put any effort into it, that’s something I’ll take with me in everyday life situations.”

In the application, participants are required to explain the operation/what the project is, include achievements/challenges, things learned from it and show what they’re doing through the use of photos to give a better image to the project.

Scheffler, who applied for proficiency in ag placement, also learned some valuable lessons through working in agriculture. He has worked on his family’s dairy farm since he was four-years-old. On the 130-dairy-cow operation, he milks the cows morning and night, helps with taking care of the calves, does a lot of the feed mixing, hauls manure, does most of the field work and helps with maintaining equipment.

“I’ve learned how to work hard and that you get what you earn, from what you put into it,” said Scheffler from his experience working on a farm. “Everything can get done, you just have to work for it.”

Although Sevareid didn’t initially grow up on a farm, his perspective on how farms operate quickly changed once he began actively working on a farm over the last several years.

“The beef industry is so complex, a lot of people don’t understand just how complex they are or how many layers there really are,” said Sevareid of his gained knowledge. “…It kind of amazes me, what used to be a good show heifer was a good production heifer, but now it may not be that way. As times change, so do the ideas. The show cattle industry has become quite diverse from the production side.”

Sevareid also relates his past knowledge gained from showing cattle to earning the State FFA degree, since a lot of time is dedicated in the spring and summer to get a “decent” show heifer/steer.