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Community rallies around Hunter Frank's family

Despite the below freezing temperatures and hour-long wait, about 50 community members rallied together to welcome home one of Owatonna’s own on Monday night.

Naval Aircrewman Operator 3rd Class Hunter Frank, a 2018 Owatonna High School graduate, died while he was deployed with the U.S. Navy in El Salvador.

Frank was found dead in his residence in Comalapa, El Salvador, on Oct. 16, and the cause of death is currently under investigation. He was 20 years old.

Frank is the son of Waseca resident Chad Frank and Medford resident Annette Duncan, who is the president of the United Way of Steele County.

To welcome Frank home, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Owatonna put out a call on social media for community members to gather along 18th Street to show the family love and support. The Owatonna Fire Department displayed a large American flag for the hearse to pass under after Frank’s casket was flown in to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“This is so extremely tragic, but it was amazing to see the amount of people who came together at such a last minute,” said Sarah Frazier with BYTR. “This is definitely what we’ve come to expect from this community, they’re extremely patriotic so to see so many people show up was not a surprise at all.”

Following Frank’s return home, his older brother Brandon Flores posted a message of gratitude on Facebook for those who came out to support his brother and family on Monday night.

“I want to say, I was completely surprised when we pulled into 18th to see this. I held it together the whole drive from the airport, but when I saw the lights I lost it,” Flores said. “Thank you so, so much. My brother has been shown so much honor and respect today.”

Supporting families is equally as important to BYTR as providing support for veterans, Frazier said. She added that the organization’s goal is to ensure the family will see the appreciation and gratitude the community has.

“It’s important that their sacrifice doesn’t go unnoticed,” Frazier said. “Some community members may not have known him, but it could be anybody’s child and we would show that we value their sacrifice for preserving our freedom. We don’t want them to ever forget that.”

The crowd ranged from small children with their parents to the elderly, representing every age group in between. Frazier said seeing that diverse representation of generations solidifies that BTYR and other organizations in the community who support veterans are doing their jobs right.

“We have to teach our children the value of what we have in this country, the freedoms we have, and that people are still fighting and dying for it every day,” Frazier said. “We can’t let them be forgotten.”

Applications for final round of COVID-19 grants due Friday

After two rounds of small business grants by the city and a third by the county, there are still dollars remaining from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding the county is hoping to allocate before time runs out.

Small businesses and nonprofits in Steele County are getting one last chance to apply for grants of amounts up to $10,000, with applications due Friday. Brad Meier, president of the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, said they are hoping to reach the final businesses and organizations in the area that may have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

“Some people may have hesitated to apply the first time, thinking maybe others needed it more,” Meier said. “But now at this point we are really encouraging people who have experienced any loss between March to today to apply.”

The grant program has expanded to include businesses with up to 100 employees – an increase from the previous 50 employee maximum – and all nonprofits. Previously the nonprofits had to be 501©3 or 501©9. Businesses and organizations can be located in unincorporated or incorporated areas of Steele County and cannot have received funding from one of the previous grant rounds.

“This funding has been a Godsend for some businesses,” Meier said. “I know the ones who have received it already are really appreciative and it has helped them move forward for at least a period of time.”

Meier is urging all businesses and nonprofits who have not yet received one of the grants to apply this week, reminding the area that it’s a “use it or lose it” situation.

“We want to use it locally,” he said. “If we don’t it will go back to the state and we lose that forever.”

Since August, more than $1 million of CARES Act funding has gone towards supporting small businesses in Steele County. Dollars were allocated both on the county and city levels, with each city government being responsible for allocating their own funds to small businesses within city limits.


Blooming Prairie quarterback Drew Kittelson (4), seen here prior to taking a snap against Medford in Week 2, is second in the state with 827 passing yards and has completed 66.2% of his passes to go with 13 touchdowns. (Jon Weisbrod/SouthernMinn.com)

Mental health is on the minds of Owatonna Public School staff
  • Updated

Owatonna school staff are taking the initiative to help students cope with mental health issues and trauma during a year where the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many people’s mental health.

Danielle Theis, director of the special services for the school district, told the Owatonna School Board Monday that she and her team have been working hard on the Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI) training initiatives. This training program has been in the Owatonna school system during the last four years and about 150 staff and administrators have participated in the training, she said.

“We’ve run a number of people through this training, but also it really assists in positioning adults in the right paradigm and understanding how trauma impacts the brain and that our young people’s neurology is different than children who have not been impacted by trauma,” Theis said.

Theis was joined by LSCI-trained staff from Wilson Elementary: social worker Alicia Field, behavior interventionist/paraprofessional Alicyn Prestergard and general education/music teacher Jessica Dant.

Prestegard has participated in the LSDI training for the last four years and says it’s making a noticeable difference in the students she works with.

“The effect it has made on our students and our staff and when you see it in action and motion you can’t help but want to know more and invest more into it as a person because of the difference that it makes in the students,” Prestegard said.

She said she’s starting to see students trust adults again, after adults had not given them a reason to in the past. She’s seeing students regain a desire to be in school and engage with other students in a positive manner after LSDI.

Dant and Field also talked about their positive experience using LSDI. Dant mentioned how implementing the strategies has helped her manage her classroom better, regardless of other student’s behaviors.

Teachers across all Owatonna elementary schools have been given foundation training on the impact of trauma and awareness training on the importance of positive interactions between students and adults, according to Theis. More specific training however, has been given to staff who have expressed interest in learning more and staff who are frequently working alongside students with mental health challenges.

LSCI is grounded in clinical theory to help staff understand the clinical impact of trauma on the brain. LSCI-trained staff guide students through a couple of stages so that the students can take ownership of the situation.

The stages are:

Drain off — This teaches kids how to slow down their emotional state and have a better understanding of what it feels like when they are not regulating themselves well,

Timeline — This is about finding out what the child perceives to be true about their environment,

Central issue — Then a student determines which intervention they are going to try,

INSIGHT — Theis calls this stage the “magic of LSDI,” going on to say this is the stage which makes this invention different then other interventions. The child is guided to their own “ah ha” moment and helps provide insight for the child,

New Skills — That’s when the staff can talk with the child about what what can happen differently and help the child see what they can do differently.

Transfer of training — This process involves taking a child who’s not available for instruction and reintroduce them to the academic environment, meaning getting the child back into the classroom.

There are six different types of interventions that accommodate different student situations, they include students who displace their strong emotions in the school on others; misperceive others intent or misread social interactions; have good intention, but chose the wrong behavior; justify the harm they caused to others and get some pleasure from harming others; experience excessive guilt and sometime alleviate that through punishment; or exploit or be exploited by others.

In order to quantify and analyze if the training is making an impact, a Performance Tracking System (PTS) has been set up and has been a part of the Discovery Program for the last three years. The Discovery Program is the district’s most intensive program for kids who might struggle with their behavior, emotions and interactions with others. They are all special education students.

The goal of the PTS is threefold: increase student investment and engagement in school, ensure objective, consistent and purposeful language, and provide data that can guide instructional strategies, skill mastery and progress monitoring. The system is composed of three tiers.

Tier I involves identifying eight student skills, in which an individual student can work on, such as tone/volume, physical boundaries, interactions, assignment completion, area of designation, accepting directions, participation and self regulation.

“Anything a child can display can fit inside these eight skill sets,” Theis said. “So we work to bring the language in.”

Additionally, “Self Time” allows students time to regulate themselves. It’s a way to introduce and normalize the process of self-regulation. Theis added that self-regulation is for everyone, not just people that have been impacted by trauma. “Directed Time” provides time for the student to practice and focus on a specific student skill that needs improvement.

“So kids know what to do, so it isn’t just a stop fast, it’s this is what I need you to practice,” Theis said.

Tier I language has been used across Owatonna elementary schools, so students are familiar with the language before they get to kindergarten.

Tier II of PTS puts the students into a database, which allows educators to quantify and objectively look at the data. The data includes when incidents occur and under what circumstances. It will help guide educators in which intervention strategy to make.

“Sometimes when kids have big displays, sometimes the reaction of the adults can intensify what we think the data might look like, so it’s really important that we are looking at objective data when we are talking about kids that disregulate,” Theis said.

Tier III provides more levels of positive reinforcement and a rating process so the child can increase their capacity to self monitor themselves and others.