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Students thrive inside (and outside) the classroom in hands-on broadcasting class
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A new offering for high school students this school year puts students both behind, and in front of the camera.

MIchelle Vlasak 

Students Elliot Olson and Faith Mehling are the news anchors of the Nov. 17 “Inside the Lair” program. (Computer generated image)

After seeing the success over the last five years with Kenyon-Wanamingo’s “Inside the Lair with Kirby and Blair,” a weekly video created to highlight students’ accomplishments and current activities, a decision was made to implement the online broadcasting skills into the school’s curriculum.

After the end of the 2020-21 school year, High School Principal Matt Ryan connected with Kirby Van de Walker, who started the online program with fellow teacher Blair Reynolds. Ryan said they were looking to create an opportunity to get students involved in some of the production side of the show and livestreaming sports, while also having that be a way for students to stay connected with the happenings at K-W.

“Ultimately, it took the right person to want to run with it and make as much out of it as possible,” said Ryan. “Kirby was that guy, he has a strong interest in it, taking initiative with leadership for getting the livestreaming going last year. It’s a good way to bring students in the process.”

Ryan also sees it as a win-win situation for all involved, because it keeps the show going strong and gets students involved and learning.

“Students are learning different communication skills, technology skills and I think as much as anything, we are trying to get students connected to the happenings at K-W,” said Ryan. “It’s a way to highlight those happenings for our students and greater community.”

Van de Walker, too, wanted to find a way to keep the show moving forward and provide a curriculum that improves kids’ communication skills, an opportunity he had available to him when he attended K-W in the early 2000s. With both him and Reynolds involved in coaching different sporting events, Van de Walker said the show would start off strong and fizzle out once their schedules became busier throughout the school year.

But now that it’s a class, that won’t happen.

“It’s a good opportunity for kids to improve and gain a wide variety of skills,” said Van de Walker. “We’re proud of the show each week, and it’s something teachers show to the kids in their homeroom. Kids also want to get involved in segments, because they want to be on the show.”

This year’s class includes students in grades nine through 12, each with their own interests, whether it be sports, theater, speech, band, art or welding. While some students knew each other beforehand, that wasn’t the case for everyone. Van de Walker says it’s been fun watching students have a different partner each week and tackle the assignment together. The show follows a similar structure each week, and starts out with Reynolds and Van de Walker introducing the latest K-W sports news. Students take the rest of the nearly 20-minute episode as news anchors, content creators, technical coordinators and/or editors/producers of the footage. There is typically a commercial made by students about a business in town that sponsors the sports livestream, followed by a game segment, senior decision and hallway challenge.

For many students, like ninth grader Jett Smith and 12th grader Preston Leininger, the hallway challenge is their favorite part of the show because it involves more people. Smith decided to sign up for the class because he wanted to try something knew and gain additional computer skills. Leininger, on the other hand, was thinking of his future after graduation when signing up the new class.

“I want to go into sports broadcasting in college, so I thought it would be a good opportunity,” said Leininger. “It’s like the class has been happening for years already, everybody knows what to do and has their own role. It’s going really good for its first year.”

Leininger personally enjoys the show because it shows everybody what students are up to at K-W, not just district-wide but community-wide.

The Hallway Challenge is just one of many segments in the program each week. Ninth grader Max Erickson, right, asks a student to identify the state. He held the card upside to help add to make it a bit more difficult since it’s Minnesota. (Computer generated image)

While perusing through the course offerings earlier this year, ninth grader Chelsea Gomez said she thought the class sounded interesting. Though she doesn’t like to be in front of the camera, Gomez is happy to be behind the camera, recording. The class is a relaxing part of her day, something 11th grader Faith Mehling can agree with.

“There’s never a dull moment here,” said Mehling during a Tuesday afternoon class. “There’s always some sort of laughs, it’s a calming, midpoint in my day.”

The hands-on opportunity of creating the show, rather than just learning the basics about the skills needed, is something ninth grader Max Erickson enjoys. Prior to the first day of class, Erickson assumed it would be more of a knowledge-test based class. He was happy to learn that he could sharpen his communication skills and learn more about online broadcasting. Though everything hasn’t been perfect, he is thankful for the learning experiences he has had so far.

Kenyon Food Shelf to relocate to All Seasons Activity Center

Members of the Dennison, Kenyon, Nerstrand, Wanamingo and West Concord areas will find the Kenyon Food Shelf in a new location come early December, just in time for the Christmas in Kenyon celebration.

Due to the sale of the current facility, which All Seasons Community Services CEO Mary Frutiger says Milo Peterson Ford and Paul Peterson generously donated to the Food Shelf for the last 10 years, the food shelf is relocating into town.

“We have been blessed with such local support,” said Frutiger. “It’s just been amazing.”

The new location will be at 518 Second St., Kenyon, at the back of the current activity center, half a block away from the All Seasons Thrift Store. Before putting the property up for sale, Frutiger said Peterson gave them ample notice, and plans to continue to work with them until the move is complete.

Frutiger says the activity center uses approximately 60% of the space, so with some renovation, a little paint and elbow grease, Kenyon area contractors and volunteers are converting the current storage space to use as the food shelf. The activity center will remain at the front of the facility, and the relocated food shelf will assume the rear of the facility. Frutiger adds clients will be directed to the relocation entrance.

While greatly appreciating Peterson for providing the space over the years, Frutiger says the food shelf in turn will see a modest savings because it won’t need as much snow plowing. She adds having all three parts of the organization — the thrift store, food shelf and activity center — all located in the downtown area will make it easier to maintain. Frutiger says it’s also a blessing that there are no major costs involved with the relocation since All Seasons already owns the new space. All they need to cover is the renovation costs.

“ASCS is pleased to continue to offer food security to the Kenyon, Wanamingo, West Concord, Dennison and Nerstrand, with very little break in service during the coming holiday season,” added Frutiger.

Current operations

Frutiger adds that generous families, farmers and multiple church congregations continue to provide fresh produce along with the needed funding for non-perishable food and personal care supplies. Per a flyer sent out a few weeks back, Fruitger said year-to-date, the food shelf met the needs of 259 individuals, averaging 22 families per month and distributing over 10,000 pounds of food.

Food Shelf Director Traci Werner adds that personal care products are some of the most in demand items at the food shelf, particularly things like deodorant and shampoo for men. Above all, Werner encourages anyone in need to stop by the food shelf and get the items they need.

”We have so much to give, we’re open and willing to help,” said Werner.

Those interested can call and leave message outside of business hours, or stop by business hours. The food shelf is typically open from 2 to 5 p.m. Mondays, noon to 3 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

Werner took over as food shelf director from Bev Jacobsen last February, after Jacobsen retired from the position. Werner moved to Kenyon two years ago from Burnsville, and wanted to get involved in the community. She began volunteering at the food shelf right away, and applied for the director position once it opened. She loves being able to meet new people, from volunteers and clients to donors.

Kenyon Holiday Shopping expo reigns for another year
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American Express created Small Business Saturday in the midst of the recession in 2010. One year later, the holiday shopping expo in Kenyon was born.

Following a hiatus in 2019 and a cancellation in 2020, the holiday shopping expo is back for another year. The event takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27 at the Kenyon VFW.

Holiday decorations are just one of many options available for purchase at the Kenyon Holiday Shopping expo on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 27. (Photo courtesy of Tonya Craig)

Organizer Tonya Craig said the shopping expo began after a group of residents wanted to get together and showcase their products and promote shopping locally.

“Each year there has been someone that stops by and learns a certain product or service is available right in our own town,” said Craig.

New to the home-based business world in 2011, Craig said another person was the coordinator the first year, but she eventually took over planning of the event. Traditionally, Craig has looked for vendors that are local and offer a product people will enjoy. She looks to provide a variety of options so anyone stopping by can find an item for themselves or that “hard to shop for person on their list.”

Since many vendors offer items that can be taken with the shopper the same day, Craig says it’s a great way to potentially avoid shipping costs and delays. While there are some original vendors like Julie Krenske’s holiday decor or Craig with Tastefully Simple products, Craig says many vendors have changed over the years.

This year’s vendor list showcases 13 total vendors, with 11 of them from within Kenyon or Wanamingo. Craig says the remaining vendors are still within 30 minutes of Kenyon.

“Shopping at an event like this means you are supporting your friend or neighbor instead of some big box store CEO,” said Craig. “Our money stays local and the commute to get gifts is far less stressful than heading to the larger cities in the area on a big shopping weekend!”

Businesses featured include Scentsy, Tastefully Simple, Pampered Chef, Color Street, Thrive, Helgeson’s Fizzinbombs Jewelry Party, Mary Kay, Sandy’s Signature Signs and other homemade gifts, holiday decor options and treats.

The Kenyon Holiday Shopping expo began in 2011, and promotes shopping local and allows local vendors to get together and showcase their products. (Photo courtesy of Tonya Craig)

She personally enjoys participating in the holiday expo to socialize with her customers, fellow vendors and friends. For customers, Craig says the expo is an “excellent” time to support local businesses and learn about options in the area for future purchases.

Wanamingo resident Julie Huneke, with Mary Kay, has participated in the expo for several years. She likes the idea of supporting other entrepreneurs, especially on Small Business Saturday. She is particularly looking forward to hearing and seeing smiles with others and handing out samples, while building a camaraderie with other vendors.

“People work really hard to put this together, and I hope the community steps up and stops by,” said Huneke. “I’m hoping for lots more people who feel the spirit of happiness.”

Huneke adds there are so many creative businesses in the local area, and she says it’s fun to see their creativity come alive.