The month of November is a great time for students and staff to express their gratitude, especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner, but there's another holiday this month that had all of us saying thank you. On November 11, our nation celebrated Veterans Day. In honor of our service men and women, many of our schools hosted guest speakers and events.
At Otter Lake Elementary, Principal Tim Schochenmaier traveled from one classroom to the next, speaking to fifth grade students about his experience in Iraq. Over at Vadnais Heights Elementary, students brought home stars which they decorated in honor of a veteran. These hand-crafted stars were then displayed in the gymnasium where a Veterans Day program was held. This event was open to family and friends who served/serve in the Army, Navy, Airforce, Marines or National Guard. They were introduced and honored during the program.
As annual tradition, Central and Sunrise Park Middle Schools had local veteran Barry Hendriksen speak to the seventh grade students. He currently works with the White Bear Lake VFW and is also the Department Chairman of the National Citizenship Education Award. Each year, he speaks about his experiences as a veteran and announces the winner of the essay contest near the end of the presentation. This year, several seventh grade students wrote and participated in the Patriot's Pen essay contest for the White Bear Lake VFW. Additionally, two students from Central were chosen as winners of the White Bear Lions Peace Poster Contest - first place went to Angel Lumbo, second place went to Alec Rautenberg. At the high school level, social studies classes watched a video on the Medal of Honor and discussed the leadership, courage and heroism it takes to receive such an award.
Our students have been extending their gratitude beyond veterans this month, to those who serve the White Bear Lake Area Community, too. Willow Lane Elementary recently hosted a summit on gratitude where students invited well-known stewards of the White Bear Lake Area Community including White Bear Lake Police Chief Julie Swanson, White Bear Lake Mayor Jo Emerson and important members of the fire department and public works department, just to name a few. A student escorted each honored guest to the gymnasium, which was jam-packed with the entire Willow student body. Students shared their gratitude to these honored guests by writing them letters and offering-up hugs and handshakes. (This summit is also referenced above in Dr. Lovett's message.)
Willow Lane also invited the community to their most recent fundraising event featuring Ms. Annie Mack, a blues singer out of Minneapolis. Annie has overcome many challenges in her lifetime and uses her music to share the message of courage and hope to inspire others to face their challenges with integrity. Over 150 people attended this first-time event. Children and families danced the evening away with a meal from Donatelli's and music by Ms. Mack. The Annie Mack Band has headlined in many major blues festivals around the country and has just been signed to play at the Grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair this summer.
Lincoln Elementary students expressed their gratitude toward another group of important members of our community, while learning a thing or two about giving back. For the third year in a row, Lincoln students participated in the Fall Yard Cleanup, where they rake leaves and tidy-up the yards of our elderly community members. Each student is asked to bring one adult with them, and this year there were a total of 160 kids who took part. The number of participants has grown each year, with this year being the biggest group to participate yet! The cleanup crew split into eight sets of teams, each with a Lincoln staff member leading the way to nearby homes. Though the students do a wonderful job, Matt Ryan from Clean Cut donates his time to come around and suck up the leaves when it's all done. The winter cleanup event is set to take place December 17.
Food for thought
The Student Council Fall Food Drive is an annual event that gets students across the district to come together to support those in need as we prepare for winter, and boy did they ever! This year, the food drive brought in an estimated 16,000 pounds of food and a separate monetary donation of $4,000 (which is capable of purchasing just over another 10,000 pounds of food). WBLAHS - South Campus alone raised 7,650 pounds of food. The Fall Food Drive is an effort led by WBLAHS Student Council members. The students set up collections for a week in all of the homerooms, then Student Council members pick up the food from each classroom during the week. They then sort, pack and deliver the food to the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf. The food shelf typically serves around 500 families a month and this food drive is one of its largest contributors.
Some of you may still have that holiday candy sitting around the house from trick-or-treating, but most Otter Lake kids have already emptied out their buckets. No, they did not scarf it all down in a matter of days - they handed over their candy to Signature Orthodontics and White Bear Smiles for their Candy Buy Back. As an incentive, both businesses offered one dollar for each pound donated to the elementary school that turned in the most candy. Otter Lake, however, had an additional incentive. Principal Tim Schochenmaier promised the students that if they won the contest, he would take a pie to the face in front of the entire student body. Whether it was the money, or the pies, Otter students pulled it off. Otter donated a whopping 463 pounds of candy! As promised, Mr Schochenmaier and a few Otter teachers took pies to the face in front of the crowd of roaring students. The 2015 Candy Buy Back collected more candy than ever before. White Bear Smiles and Signature Orthodontics collected a total of 758.5 pounds of candy! The candy will be donated to the Children's Hospitals of Minnesota.
A coaches influence
Three Bears are taking their athletic talents to the next level, officially signing on to college teams for next year. During the early National Letter of Intent Signing, WBLAHS student BriAnna Karg signed-on to play Women's Basketball at Bemidji State University and Alison Hinck will be playing Women's Basketball for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. One WBLAHS Boys' Golf player also signed-on to play at the college level, Mason Fiddle will be playing Men's Golf at the University of Minnesota.
The early National Letter of Intent signing event took place before school on November 11. Our Activities Department held a short ceremony to recognize these students' accomplishments. Then the coaches, who've spent countless hours getting to know and train these students, shared a few words about each individual player. Family and friends were invited to cheer on these three athletes as they picked up the pen to sign. Congratulations to all three WBLAHS students!
Birch Lake Elementary Principal Tami VanOverbeke recently played reading coach to students throughout an entire school day. In honor of National Young Readers Week (November 9-13), Birch Lake Elementary took part in an event called the Principal Challenge, where Principal VanOverbeke read with students from the first bell to the last for an entire school day. This event is intended to challenge principals across the United States to become shining examples for literacy by choosing one day to read their heart out. This event is put-on by the organization BOOK IT! Many principals have risen to this challenge over the last several years, reading everywhere from hallways, playgrounds and rooftops on their chosen school day. Besides enjoying a good book or two, Birch will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win 101 copies of the tenth book in the Wimpy Kid series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School, for the school library.
Upcoming: Parent Safety Night
The White Bear Lake Police Department will be hosting a Safety Information Night for Parents on Thursday, November 19 at WBLAHS - South Campus. From 5:30 to 6 p.m. there will be a free dinner, then breakout sessions from 6 - 8 p.m.. Choose to attend two breakout sessions on topics including internet safety, teen driving laws and safety, and youth drug trends and awareness. This free information night is for adults only. Student sessions will be hosted separately in various schools. There will be free childcare available for those in need. For the event flyer, click here
Take a look at our 62.4-second video updates that highlight weekly activity throughout our schools during the school year.