Archive | September, 2017

EPA jumps in with $1.6 million to clean toxic Midway site

Posted on 12 September 2017 by Calvin

The abandonment of drums and open vats of toxic chemicals at a shuttered Prior Ave. metal electroplating facility has left some neighborhood residents and nearby business owners with questions and angered elected officials.

The past few weeks have meant a flurry of meeting and actions centered on conditions at the old Plating Inc. plant at 888 N. Prior Ave., just south of Pierce Butler Route. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has had to step in, which what it calls a “time critical” removal and cleanup plan. The EPA has indicated that the work could take up to 65 days.

More than 80 open vats and 76 sealed barrels must be removed from the building. The metal plating process involves several hazardous chemicals. The chemicals were left behind when the plant closed. The open vats contained caustics, chromium, and cyanide. It’s also believed the walls of the 21,00-square foot building contain asbestos

A community meeting was held in August, and federal, state and local officials continue to monitor the situation. The old cinderblock building has housed a plating shop since about 1938. It most recently handled zinc and chromate plating of aluminum products. The business closed and was abandoned in the spring of 2016. The business owner told EPA officials he had no money to clean up the hazardous materials left behind.

What sent up red flags for neighbors and elected officials is that the building has been the subject of break-ins, with thieves in search of copper pipes to resell. The EPA has hired a security firm to guard the building.

EPA officials have also gone door-to-door in the residential neighborhood to the east to tell neighbors what is going on. Neighbors have been told that there will be regular air monitoring done as the chemicals are removed. The EPA has also informed neighbors that there are contingency plans in case of any emergencies. The cleanup will take place during weekday business hours and should be done by year’s end.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who hosted the August neighborhood meeting, called for the U.S. Attorney’s office to look into criminal charges against the company owner. EPA documents indicate that Ron Glebus is the former chief executive of Plating Inc. He could not be reached for comment.

In her letter, McCollum wrote, “The decision by the owner of Plating, Inc. to abandon 82 open vats and 76 drums of toxic chemicals is an environmental crime that must be prosecuted. The fact that individuals walked away from vats and drums containing sodium hydroxide, chromic acid, sodium cyanide, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, chromium, and zinc without informing regulators or public safety officials is an act of negligence and public endangerment.”

The EPA has allocated $1.6 million to clean up the site.

The Midway area has had several metal plating plants over the years. Only a few remain. While it’s unusual for a plant owner to just shut the doors and walk away, it isn’t unheard of in the Twin Cities. Plant closings and cleanups typically involve the EPA.

To reach contacts for the Plating, Inc. cleanup go to https://response.epa.gov/site/site_profile.aspx?site_id=12315.

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traffic signal Hamline Pierce Butler

It takes a village… to get flashing lights at Hamline/Pierce Butler

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Calvin

Flashing lights.

It’s all about the safety of children. The combined efforts of the community, City of St. Paul and Ramsey County have been at work to create safer conditions for children to walk or bike to school, and these efforts have resulted in the installation of a rectangular flashing beacon at the intersection of Hamline and Pierce Butler.

“I have lobbied for four years for the intersection to be evaluated for pedestrian and cyclist safety,” said parent Susan Sochacki. She has students attending Great River School at 1326 Energy Park Dr. “Parents have been reluctant to have their children cross at Pierce Butler because of the high volumes of traffic and high speeds,” Sochacki said.

Sochacki, who lives five houses west of Hamline, said her family uses the intersection to go to Como Zoo and the pool. Although signage has been added to the route in the past few years, the flashing beacon is the result of studies and concerns by all involved. The importance of traffic safety was highlighted by a cyclist-auto crash Apr. 24 of this year.

Image right: Community leaders hold a sign emphasizing pedestrian safety. It took many years of lobbying to get a flashing beacon at the high-risk intersection of Hamline Ave. and Pierce Butler Rte. (Photo submitted)

Sochacki submitted a chronology of safety measures that have been taken at the Pierce Butler and Hamline route dating back to the fall of 2013 when some Great River students received a grant from Blue Cross-Blue Shield to work on the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) plan.

The mission of SRTS is to advance safe walking and bicycling to and from schools, to improve the health and well being of kids of all races, income levels, abilities, and to foster the creation of healthy communities for everyone. Recommendations were finalized in the fall of 2014. In December of 2014 speed zone signs were installed on Pierce Butler near Hamline and Pierce Butler.

In November of the following year, a crosswalk enforcement event was held at the intersection of Pierce Butler and Hamline Ave. Over the next year and a half, emails were sent, meetings were held, and discussions continued. Sochacki completed pedestrian and cycle counts at the intersection in March, April and May 2017. Stop For Me held an event encouraging vehicle drivers to pay attention to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

And with all these entities working together, it was determined that flashing lights at the intersection of Pierce Butler and Hamline were needed.

“Saint Paul Public Works is installing enhanced crossing treatments at the intersection of Hamline and Pierce Butler as part of an effort to improve the crossing of Pierce Butler for school children, pedestrians, and cyclists,” said Ben Hawkins, an engineer with that department. “This crossing is an important route for children going to the two schools that are in the Energy Park area because it is the only way across the railroad between Snelling and Lexington. It is also an identified route in the Safe Routes to School program as well as the Saint Paul bike plan.”

“Pierce Butler is one of the higher speed roadways in St. Paul and was previously part of a project to improve the pedestrian crossing several years ago,” Hawkins continued. ‘The previous project installed a center lane concrete median refuge to reduce the crossing distance. The current project will install a rectangular rapid flashing beacon (RRFB) device at the crossing as well as two times a day activate school speed limit zone flashing signs.”

Hawkins described the RRFB as a push button activated system that will flash LED lights to help alert drivers of pedestrians crossing Pierce Butler, and the school speed limit zone flashing signs will flash during the times of day when the reduced speed for children going to and from school is active. Hawkins noted that there are RRFB devices currently installed at Raymond and Gordon as well as just south of Grand Ave. on Snelling and at the intersection of Johnson Pkwy. and Ames.

“The project to install these devices is being paid for by Ramsey County Public Works and St. Paul Public Works,” Hawkins said. “Work has begun at this time, but we are still awaiting delivery of the actual crossing device hardware. The manufacturer we ordered the hardware from has received a large number of orders this year and is a bit behind on delivery, but we will complete the installation as soon as the remainder of the hardware arrives. I anticipate project completion within the next three weeks or so, which is now the expected delivery date.”

Jeremy Ellison, Toward Zero Death Grant Coordinator of the St. Paul Police Department (SPPD), emphasized that pedestrian safety is a priority for the city and the police department. ‘We are committed to making sure our community is safe for everyone to walk, bike, roll, and drive,” he stated.

He cited recent statistics showing that as of July 15, 2017, there have been 106 pedestrians and an additional 50 bikers who have been struck by drivers in St. Paul. “This is an increase from 2016 numbers,” Ellison confirmed. “There is a national trend showing an increase in pedestrian crashes.”

He said the SPPD has been partnering with the community, schools, nonprofits and anyone else who is passionate about pedestrian safety. “Together, we have done over 100 pedestrian safety events this year,” he said. “The goal is to raise awareness and teach pedestrians how to safely cross the road, as well as doing enforcement for drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians who are crossing the street in a crosswalk. We take great care to make sure that drivers have plenty of time to safely slow down and stop for pedestrians who are in the crosswalk, making a safe stopping distance using an orange cone so that pedestrians and police know when a vehicle has had enough time to stop.”

Ellison said he is excited about the work that has happened at Hamline and Pierce Butler. “I know that changes in the signage and the addition of an RRFB are all going to teach the kids how to safely cross the road, which will extend far beyond just this one intersection,” he said.

“Projects like this are great stories to tell when we need to find the secret recipe for success,” he said. “There was a lot of work done by the community to show the need. The County also did a great job of partnering and listening to the concerns and then making meaningful change to prioritize the most vulnerable road users.” Ellison added that he is hopeful that this type of action can continue to happen throughout the City as all work together to improve the safety equitably for everyone.

Regarding bikers using Pierce Butler and Hamline Ave., Luke Hanson, who works for the City Public Works Transportation Planning and Safety Division, said recent projects near that intersection include bike lanes installed on Hamline between University and Minnehaha in 2016. “Another project is a biking and walking connection between Pierce Butler and the Lexington Pkwy. Bike/Pedestrian Bridge,” he said. “This year, Ramsey County is also planning on installing bike lanes on Pierce Butler Rte.”

County Commissioner Janice Rettman said that with this project, it has been good to see democracy in action. “Everyone came to the table,” she noted. She said that Great River School has increased exponentially in population, and the speed limit and types of traffic on Pierce Butler had to be enforced to make things safer.

“It is incumbent on the person crossing the street to push a button,” she said. “And the school is making teaching this to kids a part of the curriculum.”

She also emphasized the cost-sharing between the county and city for the project.

“We also need to be respectful of drivers wanting to get to work,” she said. ”All of us have to modify a twitch for it to work best for everybody. Everyone has something to give here—everyone has had a part to play.”

That was reiterated by Sochacki, who is finally seeing her years of concern about the traffic conditions and safety of children using the Pierce Butler Rte. bear fruit. She is hoping the flashing beacons will be installed by Oct. 4, National Walk to School Day. She is working with other schools to commemorate that event, celebrating the health and environment of the schools by promoting walking. And, she is celebrating how a community, working together, can make a difference.

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Stuart Holland slider

For 48 years Talking Book Network has been serving the visually impaired

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Calvin

The first program of its kind in the world, Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network (RTB) went on air in 1969. The program, in which volunteers and a few paid staff read newspapers, magazines, and books to the visually impaired over the radio, will for the first time in many years be operating without its manager, Stuart Holland.

Holland (photo right by Jan Willms) has just stepped down from his position at RTB, which has its studio at 2200 University Ave., after first joining the network in 1986. He has been an employee of the state, which funds the network, since 1975.

“That’s a long time,” Holland noted, “and there are too many things to do that I don’t have time for while I am in this job. So I am thinking of it as more of a transition than a retirement.”

The service is available to the blind, or someone who is dyslexic, suffered a stroke, or as the result of an illness or condition is unable to read.

“Bill Kling had graduated from St. John’s University in 1965, went to grad school and returned. St. John’s wanted him to start a radio station, which he did. The station was originally Minnesota Educational Radio and then became Minnesota Public Radio,” recalled Holland. “Kling could not sell advertising for public radio, but he thought that maybe Minnesota State Services for the Blind would like a radio station. C. Stanley Potter, the director of that organization and a longtime ham radio operator, had been thinking of how to get such a station. It was a perfect meeting of the minds.”

Holland said they spent 1968 doing contracts, research and having discussions, and the program went on air in 1969. “Initially, it was on the air in St. Cloud and the Twin Cities and was a little paternalistic,” he said. The station organizers thought they had to “take care of those poor blind people.”

Holland said it was soon realized that the blind had the same interests as everyone else, and none of the books or articles read are edited in any way. “It is almost impossible to find books without any sex or violence in them today,” he said, “and the visually impaired have the same right of access as everyone else.”

The station operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Programs are on automation from 10pm to 5:30am, with the rest of the time being staffed. “We work that late because we have volunteers who come in, and we need people who can help with equipment and just be here in case something happens,” Holland explained.

The station first opened its doors in a downtown St. Paul building, where the State Services for the Blind was located. It then moved to 1745 University, into what had originally been a factory. “That was not a perfect location,” Holland recalled. “There were eight recording booths and a set of steps to get into the building. If we had a volunteer in a wheelchair, it was tough luck. They would have to record at home.”

In 1992 RTB moved to its present location, with 20 recording booths designed by the person who was the recording engineer at the time. It is one of the largest recording facilities in the country, according to Holland. “It’s wonderful, and so acoustically insulated,” he added. “”You walk into the recording booth, and once the door is shut, you cannot hear a thing, not even a fire alarm. Blinking lights are used for fire alarms.”

Holland said the number of volunteers for RTB doubled between 1994 and 2001. “That’s because we started having teams of volunteers across the state who broadcast their local newspapers,” he explained. “They would break into our signal once a day and read them. Fergus Falls was the first, in 1994. Then St. Cloud, Duluth, Rochester, Mankato and Grand Rapids.”

Currently, there are volunteers who read from across the United States. “We loan them the equipment they need to do the recording. They do the recordings, then send them back to us in the mail. It works quite well,” Holland said.

Volunteers are required to take an oral reading test. “We ask them to get 92% of the vocabulary words correct, and we need them to know when they have made a mistake,” noted Holland. “We all make mistakes.”

He said that after reading for a long time, volunteers get very good or may get sloppy. “We have an ongoing quality control person who listens to people recording to see if they are getting sloppy.”

With recordings coming in from all across the United States, many local volunteers use the studio, and the recording booths are usually full. “We have people from all different backgrounds who volunteer,” Holland said. “we have college professors, current or past; dermatologists, heart surgeons, homemakers, and factory workers.”

Books are aired serially, one hour per day, on RTB. Monday through Friday, people will hear eleven hours of books, four hours of today’s newspapers, and nine hours of programming taken from around 300 periodicals. Saturdays and Sundays only have four books, which consist of a self-help book, a book of regional interest, a book aimed at children 8 to 15, and a book of contemporary poetry; the rest of the weekend programming is periodicals and newspapers.

“We have a very broad cross-section of books,” Holland said, “everything from history to romance to political and controversial materials, mysteries, general fiction and vampire stories. We have something for everybody.”

He doesn’t usually select best sellers for broadcast because the National Library Service covers those. “I check their list to see what is already being covered,” he said. “We have a lot of Minnesota authors who don’t make it to the bestsellers, but are perfectly good authors, and we offer them.”

Holland cited a brand new option for listeners that he is very pleased with. “In 1969, it was assumed that everyone in Minnesota should know how to speak English,” he said. “There are some who still have that belief, but we know it’s not a reality. People with disabilities get them across ethnic groups and languages. We also have people who move into Minnesota who don’t yet have the language.”

Holland said he had been thinking about this for a long time, and last February he started talking with engineers. He said there is an archive page on the network’s website with extra space, and it occurred to him that readings in other languages could be put on that page. “We now have volunteers recording in Spanish, Hmong, Russian and Somali,” he stated. He does not yet have Somali and Hmong volunteers but is working on it.

“Now people can go to that page and find the latest news in their language,” Holland added. “I consider that to be my signature accomplishment for my last year.”

He has seen many changes and developments since he started, when the AP ticker tape would print out the latest news. “Once the machine started ticking, people would run over to the machine to check out what was happening. Then we got computers,” he smiled.

During his tenure as manager, he has worked under several governors and commissioners. He said what he will miss most from this job is his connection with the volunteers.” I tell people when they start that they are joining a large family of volunteers. They don’t all know each other or interact or see each other, but many do. And we try to give them a few opportunities during the year to connect with each other. I have taught master classes for volunteers the past 17 years.

When he leaves, he hopes to take that master class and market it as a business. ”There are many people who need to do speaking as part of their jobs, but they may not do it well. I help them do it well,” he commented. He is also at work on a couple of books, one a mystery and one about his collection of German pottery. And he may make more use of his theater degree and do more acting roles once he has stepped down from his manager position.

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Career Pathways design students slider

Career Pathways charter school moves to Hamline Midway

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Calvin

Move brings students closer to job opportunities and partnerships with local businesses and organizations

A small charter school focused on developing career pathways in middle and high school has moved to the Hamline-Midway neighborhood.

Career Pathways opened its doors to students on Sept. 6 at its new location, 1355 Pierce Butler Rt.

Photo right: Landlord Raj Saraf (left), Career Pathways Executive Director Dr. Joan Arbisi Little, and school board member and teacher Liz Lonetti sign the lease on the new building at 1355 Pierce Butler Rt. (Photo submitted)

The charter school, which opened in the 2015-16 school year, was formerly located in the Whittier neighborhood of South Minneapolis. Last year it had 95 students and 17 staff members. With a larger building this year, staff members hope to expand by 20 to 30 students this year.

However, the school intends to remain small and has capped its enrollment at 175.

“Our advisory based groups are mixed age, and with so many staff, classes are small,” remarked Career Pathways Executive Director Joan Arbisi Little. “We will always be a small school with small classes.”

A graduate of St. Paul Open School, Arbisi Little is a strong believer in experiential learning—learning about something by doing it. “With our focus on career pathways, we help kids stay focused on discovering their own strengths and future opportunities,” said Arbisi Little. “We are a small international school where all are welcome and where all students and staff are known.

Photo left: Eight of Career Pathways’ 11 licensed teachers at a summer symposium in July 2017. Teachers used the time to make plans for the new school year. (Photo submitted)

“As a public school, we are open to all students. Students and parents are attracted to our small size and our focus on job readiness.”

Focus on real world skills
The original board chose to start a career and college-orientated school where students could have early and consistent exposure to the ideas that would grow naturally into plans for post secondary education.

Students participate in a variety of programs that focus on real world transferable skills, including critical thinking, problem-solving, interpersonal, and the “soft skills” that make one a strong team member.

One of the reasons for relocating to the Hamline-Midway neighborhood was to put students near a wide variety of industries and post-secondary schools where students can participate in internships, jobs, and postsecondary education opportunities (PSEO).

Photo left: School board member and teacher Liz Lonetti and two juniors hang out near the Welcome Desk. (Photo submitted)

“We are thrilled to be in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood because the community has so many opportunities to offer our students,” stated Career Pathways School Board Member Liz Lonetti. “The building will allow us to create workshop, aquaponics, and technical training labs in and around the school.”

Business leaders who would like to partner with the school are encouraged to contact Career and College Counselor, Amina Adan, at amina@cpathmn.org.

Education beyond four walls
Part of the school’s mission is to connect students to the greater community around them. “It extends education beyond the four walls of a school and enriches learning,” remarked Arbisi Little.

One of those programs is Street Law, which partners with local law schools to send their students into high schools as volunteers who present on law topics and how students can leverage the protections of the law and understand its limits.

Photo right: Minneapolis College of Art and Design President Jay Coogan looks at art with Career Pathways middle school students on a college visit last year. (Photo submitted)

YouthBuild offers students the opportunity to learn about the building trades. The organization provides mentoring and job site construction opportunities.

Resources Inc. hires Career Pathways students to work in the school as lunch servers and helpers. This program is especially good for students who don’t feel confident going out into the community to work, remarked Arbisi Little.

Students who are interested in concurrent enrollment work with Lake Superior College to take courses at Career Pathways with an approved teacher or online. Psychology is a favorite for juniors and seniors.

One of the graduation requirements is having a resume on file. “Students have enthusiastically caught on how to phrase job experiences in resumes, and I think they see how much potential they have when their hard work is written out, and they look up things they can learn to improve their resume,” said Arbisi Little.

Each student is also required to work a minimum of 40 hours as a volunteer or in a real job before graduation, and to create a post-graduation plan. The school maintains contact with the supervisor to make sure that things go well for both the student and the partnering organization, according to Arbisi Little.

Another unique feature at Career Pathways is Genius Hour—a time where community experts come in to offer special opportunities.

There’s also the Maker-Space, a place where students can go to build and create art or prototypes. “It looks a lot like an art studio at this time, but we envision it growing to be more of a shop class,” said Arbisi Little.

Design Thinking, the process of defining a problem, empathizing with the audience, brainstorming solutions, creating prototypes, testing, and launching the solution, is another unique feature of the charter school.

Career Pathways is a teacher led-school, with teachers making decisions in a democratic way. “Like a dentist clinic or law office, the professionals who work with the clients (in our case the students) make the decisions,” explained Arbisi Little. “As the executive director, it is my responsibility to support their decisions carefully watching student achievement, financial stability, and community relations.”

90% of students are bilingual
Some of the founding leaders of Career Pathways were immigrants and helped make sure that bilingual students would get a strong foundation before going to college and joining the work force.

A third of the students at Career Pathways are ESL learners, and close to 90% are bilingual.
“We offer newcomers a sheltered environment where they can learn the language and the culture alongside their peers while being supported by staff who have been through similar experiences,” remarked Arbisi Little.

Individualized graduation plans
At Career Pathways, staff members work with each student to create an individualized graduation plan. “We sit with each student and help them prepare for graduation by listening to their dreams, helping them chart out goals and designing a plan for graduation,” said Arbisi Little.

Staff members identify the standards students need to meet and what unfinished graduation requirements are on a student’s transcript. Then they plan a student’s schedule combining interests with project-based learning, more traditional “core” classes, and, when appropriate, blended or online learning.

“Many of our students have college aspirations; those students can enroll in PSEO  and other college readiness options,” stated Arbisi Little.

“Other students are excited to start working, so we provide mock-interviews and resume help, and connect them with volunteer organizations to help them improve their resume.

“In addition, we often have students that are working part time and need their jobs. We understand that work experiences have taught these students many skills, and we give them work credit.”

All students are required to meet the same requirements that the Minnesota Department of Education has set for public school students through out the state.

Career Pathways is a member of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) and partners with two other area charter schools for athletics. The girls and boys soccer teams are just getting started, and basketball teams will be forming later in the fall.

Middle school grades 6 through 8 have a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) focus with opportunities for hands-on learning to prepare students for high school while opening their eyes to career possibilities.

The benefits of a combined middle and high school include the inter-age learning opportunities. Groups of students of all ages learn cooperatively and from each other and create an atmosphere of respect and empathy.

For more information, browse www.cpathmn.org.

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William Kent Krueger publishes 16th book in Cork O’Connor series

William Kent Krueger publishes 16th book in Cork O’Connor series

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Calvin

Local award-winning author William Kent Krueger (photo right by Jan Willms) has just published his 16th Cork O’Connor novel, “Sulfur Springs.” O’Connor, the Irish-Ojibwe protagonist of Krueger’s mystery series, usually is solving crimes in the North Country of Minnesota. But this book is set in the desert of Arizona.

“When you write a long-running series, one of the major concerns you have is ‘Am I getting stale? Are the stories getting stale?’ You also want, if you can, to offer the readers something unexpected and refreshing,” Krueger said during a recent interview. “Cork has been in Minnesota for almost every book. I took him out of Minnesota last in book # 9, and this is book #16, so he’s been in the state for a long time.”

Krueger said that one of the things that could help refresh him as a writer and keep things fresh for his readers is to change the location. “I wanted to offer Cork something different than what he’s been challenged by before,” he said. He added that he knows a change of location, where readers expect a certain locale, cannot be too dramatic or they won’t want to go there. “I think if I had had Cork in New York City or San Francisco, readers wouldn’t be as anxious to follow. But offering them Cork battling the environment, the topography, the weather and the cultural differences of Arizona would be offering the readers a lot of what I give them in Minnesota.”

His new book revolves around the Arizona-Mexico border and the immigrants crossing into the United States and what befalls them. And Cork, his main character, finds himself in the midst of what emanates from these crossings.

“My wife and I spend time in Arizona every year, so I know something of the state,”

Krueger stated. “And there’s another reason for this locale. I am passionately committed to the idea that as a nation we need to look at opening our arms and the doors of our hearts to refugees who want to come here, to find peace and safety. The whole border wall issue is a powerful one for me, so Arizona seemed to meet a lot of my needs, both artistically and in terms of my conscience.”

Krueger said he does not necessarily respect the political side of the immigration issue, as he would like to see a lot of politicians speaking out about it who are not doing so. But he does respect the people who are on the line and are asked to do things they might not agree with. He said he believes these people are trying to do their jobs as humanely as they can.

Regarding the border patrol, Krueger said he learned of many who are doing their best to make sure folks don’t die when coming across the border. “They have to arrest them, and the legal course has to be run, but they don’t have to treat these people bad. They don’t have to turn their hearts to stone, and that’s the sense I got from so many.”

Krueger explained that Sulfur Springs required a lot of research, but it was research that he loved. “This is one of my favorite books in terms of research, for lots of reasons,” he noted.

“I never write a story set in a place or in a particular time without having been in that place at that time. Sulfur Springs takes place in July in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. So where was I last July? I was in the middle of the Sonoran Desert with my wife and with my 11-year-old grandson.”

Krueger said that he had been contacting the Border Patrol officials for a second string of research but had received no response, so he decided to try and find some of them out in the desert doing their jobs and talk with them. “I was out there where they had these big signs posted saying ‘Danger! Drug Smuggling Area! Your Life Could Be In Danger!’ And I had my 11-year-old grandson with me. I don’t know what I was thinking!”

He spotted a Border Patrol vehicle and pulled over and went to talk to them. “The guys I talked to were not particularly excited at first to see me approaching their vehicle, but I had this kid with me, and because he was with me they opened up to me in ways that I think they would not have otherwise,” Krueger explained. “They afforded me lots of marvelous insights into what they do.”

He found the same type of experience when he sought out humanitarian organizations that left food, water, blankets, clothing, and shoes in the desert for immigrants. “When I first talked with some of these organization representatives, they were hesitant to share some of their horror stories because I had my grandson present. But his questions were so intelligent and his responses so compassionate, they opened up to us. He had a tremendously unique and, I hope, educational experience.”

When writing his series of books about Cork, Krueger has never given him a solid physical description, although he goes into detail in his descriptions of many of the adjunct characters. “I want the readers to see Cork from the inside,” he said. “They need to know him psychologically, spiritually and emotionally—that’s what is important. And I want them to visualize Cork physically in whatever way makes sense.

Krueger said that what interests him about his main character exists on two levels: it is what is there physically affecting him and how he will respond to this physical challenge, and it is also how he is emotionally responding. “What is Cork thinking? What is the degree to which he will use physical force as opposed to cunning? And that process, I think, is as dynamic as any action that takes place. He is a thinking hero.”

Regarding what is most important to writing a story, Krueger recalled something F. Scott Fitzgerald once said: “Characters are the plot, and the plot is character.”

“A good story can’t survive without all the elements working in conjunction, in unison with one another,” Krueger said.

He believes that relationships are at the heart of Sulfur Springs. He described relationships among people who are dedicated to doing the right thing, and those who prey upon others. “It’s about people,” he said simply.

“Setting is also such a strong part of every story that I write, so I spend a lot of time trying to create a powerful sense of place. And I try to use that sense of place in the way I would use a character,” Krueger continued. “The desert challenges Cork in a way that an antagonist might challenge him, and Cork has to figure out this thing that he is battling.

What is its spirit? How does he approach it? How does he deal with it, accept it and create a relationship with it?”

Krueger is now doing book tours with his just-published book, and he just finished the first draft of the next Cork novel, “Desolation Mountain.” This book brings Cork back to the Arrowhead in Minnesota, and the manuscript is due to Krueger’s publisher by Dec. 1. He is also working on writing “Tender Mercies,” a companion novel to his multi-award winning work of fiction, “Ordinary Grace.” “I’m really, really pleased with the manuscript so far,” Krueger noted. That book is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2019.

Krueger said that he doesn’t feel much has changed since he wrote his first Cork O’Connor novel, but he can’t imagine that after 18 years of contemplating things with Cork he hasn’t learned a thing or two.

“One thing that has changed for me is that I feel more confident in myself as a writer,” he stated. “I don’t second-guess myself. I know Cork pretty well, and the people who surround him, so the stories are less difficult for me to realize than they used to be.”

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Como Boys State Fair slider

‘Como Boys’ annual golf tournament Sept. 15 benefits Kids for Kyla

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Calvin

Kids for Kyla helps couples attain the dream of creating a family by providing grants for adoption and infertility treatments

The “Como Boys” believe in family, so when the group heard about Kids for Kyla, a nonprofit organization that gives grants for adoptions and infertility treatments, they didn’t hesitate to offer their support.

This year, group members are organizing the third annual Como Boys Legacy Golf Tournament to benefit Kids for Kyla on Fri., Sept. 15. The tournament at Island Lakes 9-Hole Golf Course in Shoreview costs $75 per golfer or $300 per foursome. It will be followed by lunch at Patrick McGovern’s in St. Paul. For more information, email tjdaulton@gmail.com or call 612-269-8248.

DONATIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED ONLINE AT  http://kidsforkyla.com/donate.

Doing good together
The Como Boys have been meeting for breakfast at the Key’s Restaurant at Lexington and Larpenteur for 24 years. They started getting together once a month when their kids were young, and soon that became twice a month. Now they fill up the back of Key’s every Thursday from 7-9am.

Some of the guys have known each other since grade school at Holy Childhood Catholic Church (on Midway Pkwy. and Pascal), including Bob Cardinal, Tim Daulton, and Mick Detviler. They were bound together by their neighborhood, school, and sports.

Detviler has lived in the area for 40 years, and currently has a house on the north end of Como Lake. He attended Cretin High School and then St. Thomas College. Detviler spent his career working for Coldspring Brewing Company.

Photo right: In August, the Como Boys gathered on a Tuesday to have breakfast with group member Jerry Hammer, who is the general manager of the State Fair. The Como Boys have been meeting together for breakfast for 24 years. They meet regularly every Thursday morning at the Key’s Restaurant at Lexington and Larpenteur. (Photo submitted)

Cardinal is back in Falcon Heights. He graduated from Alexander Ramsey High School (now Roseville High), and earned his degree from the University of Minnesota before starting a career in publishing.

Photo left: Since the Como Boys started having breakfast at Key’s Restaurant at Larpenteur and Lexington, Connie Gott-McCoy (left) has been their regular waitress. Also pictured: Mick Detviler, Tim Daulton, and Bob Cardinal. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Daulton grew up in Como Park within a block of Keys and now lives in Roseville. He graduated from Murray High School in St. Paul and worked in the construction field.

“This group is invaluable,” remarked Daulton. He pointed to the varied backgrounds each member brings to the table. “You come to breakfast and depending on what time you come, you’re going to sit down with different people. It’s stimulating. It’s addictive.”

“Everything and anything that goes on in the Twin Cities—somebody at the table knows something about it,” remarked Cardinal. “This is one of the cultural hubs of St. Paul. This is the way St. Paul operates.”

“It’s community,” agreed Detviler. “You’re connecting people.”

In addition to weekly breakfasts, the group gets together year-round. They have two annual events in northern Wisconsin that are attended by 20-30 guys. “That’s a lot of guys that make the effort,” noted Cardinal. “How many guys can say they’ve been getting together for 45 years?”

Helping create families
Three years ago, Daulton approached Detviler and told him he wanted to host a golf tournament for his daughter’s nonprofit—in six weeks.

When they brought it to the larger group over breakfast, everyone agreed they should officially sponsor it.

“It’s one of those things you wrap your arms around,” said Detviler. “It’s a good idea.”
The various members of the Como Boys had participated in benefits and fundraisers on their own over the years, but the Golf Classic was the first they put their stamp of approval on as a group.

“What pulls at your coat tails is that you’re helping create families,” remarked Daulton. “Family to us is such a high priority. When you get the opportunity to help create families, you’ve really got to jump on it.”

Photo left: Tim Daulton and his youngest daughter Kim enjoy a day on the golf course to raise money for Kim’s nonprofit Kids for Kyla. The annual Como Boys Golf Tournament raises money for Kids for Kyla, which provides grants to couples pursuing adoption and infertility treatments. (Photo submitted)

Organizers also hope to raise awareness about how expensive adoption and fertility treatments can be.

The first year the benefit pulled in $10,000 with 27 golfers and another 30 who just came to dinner. For the second year, Patrick McGovern’s owner Patrick Boemer, one of the Como Boys, donated the food. They raised $15,000 and had 48 golfers. For 2017, the goal is to raise $20,000 and serve about 100.

Non-golfers can opt to pay $30 for the lunch and reception at Patrick McGovern’s that begins at noon.

Daulton and Detviler have been working to get everything that they need donated, to pass along 100% of what is raised to Kids for Kyla. Starbucks donated coffee, and the Taste of Scandinavian bakery donated donuts for the 8:30am check-in and socialization time before the 10am shotgun start. Others have donated door prizes and silent auction items, or opted to sponsor a hole or T-box.

Struggle gives birth to nonprofit organization
Kids for Kyla is named after Daulton’s granddaughter, a little girl who died six days after birth.

Her parents, Daulton’s youngest daughter Kim and husband Ryan Mayeda, had struggled with infertility for two years before conceiving their “miracle baby,” and had already experienced a miscarriage. At birth, Kyla didn’t start breathing on her own, and the life-threatening complication led to brain swelling. The Mayedas made the courageous decision to donate Kyla’s heart to a 62-day-old girl and Kyla’s kidneys to an unknown recipient. Then they said goodbye.

They found themselves heartbroken, lost for words, numb to the world, still childless and facing a pile of medical bills.

Their dream of having a family hadn’t been extinguished, and they decided to pursue adoption.

Kim and Ryan got their paperwork completed, home study finished and all of their classes done. They were chosen by a birth mom on July 21, 2010, and on Aug. 21, she gave birth to a baby boy. In Colorado, parents sign papers on the fourth business day following birth. On the third day, the birth mom changed her mind and wanted the baby back. They were discouraged that they no longer had the finances to go through another adoption, making the loss and the heartache even worse. But their agency was gracious and willing to keep working with them. In October 2010, Kim and Ryan were chosen by another birth mom, a young girl in the foster system. The agency said that it was a virtually a done deal. On their way to the hospital on Nov. 5 to meet the baby girl the agency called, and told them the birth mom had changed her mind. It was another loss.

On Dec. 31, 2010, the last day of the worst year of Ryan and Kim’s life, a little girl was born.
Five weeks later, after all legal risk was cleared, they went and met little Makyla Joy for the first time and brought her to her forever home. Makyla was the answer to countless prayers, late nights and shed tears.

A year and a half later, Kim became pregnant again. Because of the journey with Kyla, the next nine months were full of anxiety, hope, fear, joy, and confusion. But on May 27, 2013, Kim delivered a healthy baby boy, Asher Timothy Masayuki Mayeda.

The Mayedas know the emotional stress on a marriage that both infertility treatment and the adoption process can cause, as well as how the financial stress of it all can make things feel hopeless. So after the disruption of the adoption, the couple decided to start Kids For Kyla in honor of their little girl Kyla. The foundation has been a way for Kim and Ryan to reach out and help people who are walking down a very difficult and often lonely road.

The average domestic adoption costs between $25,000-$35,000 and the average international adoption costs between $35,000-$50,000. Couples going through infertility treatments, on average, will spend between $10,000-$40,000 before having a child.

Financial struggle is the single largest reason that couples struggling with having children may never realize the dream of a family, pointed out R. Mayeda.

“It is our belief that there is nothing more important or sacred than family,” said R. Mayeda.
In the past six years, Kids for Kyla has given nearly $50,000 in grants to families in Minnesota and Colorado.

The money at the Como Boys golf tournament raised will help create an endowment fund for Kids for Kyla, enabling the money people donate to keep giving for years to come.

“Tell everybody you know. Pass it along. Tell your friends about what we’re trying to achieve,” said Cardinal. “It’s a little golden gem. We’re trying to make a lot of jewelry from the gold.”

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TopLine Credit Union 04

TopLine Federal Credit Union offering finance workshop next month

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Calvin

TopLine Federal Credit Union is offering a workshop called, ”Improve your Credit Score” on Wed., Oct. 18 from 6-7:3pm at the Historic Street Car Station, 1224 Lexington Pkwy. N. The workshop is free and open to members of the community over the age of 16, as well as TopLine members. A financial educator from nearby Lutheran Social Services will lead the session.

Vicki Erickson, vice president of marketing and communications and president of the TopLine Credit Union Foundation, said, ”We’re dedicated to financial literacy for all ages.”

Photo right: Como branch manager Diane Monson (left) and vice president of marketing and communications Vicki Erickson(right) agreed that, “One of our core values at TopLine Credit Union is people helping people.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Toward that goal, TopLine holds 12 workshops each year in the metro area for adults and many more for youth. “In addition to the workshops we plan,” Erickson explained, “we welcome opportunities to be invited out into the community. Our staff can speak to many different topics including retirement planning, college funding, understanding mortgages, and small business development. We’re also able to partner with local attorneys to help people better understand how to manage their assets, determine which estates will best suit their heirs, or to write health directives, powers of attorney, wills, and trusts.”

Erickson said, “The first question we will ask is, ‘How can we help you improve your financial situation?’” To learn more about scheduling a community presentation, email Vicki Erickson at verickson@toplinecu.com.

The Como branch of TopLine Federal Credit Union is located at the NE corner of Lexington Pkwy. and Front St.

We pride ourselves on being local, member-owned, and not-for-profit.” said branch manager Diane Monson. “To join, everyone deposits $5 in a shared, secure savings account. Every member of TopLine is considered an equal member, no matter how much they invest. We have five branches in the metro area, and more than 40,000 members. We manage more than $400,000,000 in assets.”

Monson explained, “The demographics of our five branches are very different; we’re located in St. Paul, Edina, Brooklyn Park, Maple Grove, and Plymouth. It’s not uncommon for a person to come into one of the branches who is in their 50’s and has never had a credit card. We have nothing to measure their credit by, even if they’ve done a great job of paying their bills and staying out of debt, but we can help anyone build a credit score.”

“A person can start with something as simple as a secure VISA card and a $500 credit limit,” Monson said. “A credit score ranges from 350-800. If your credit score is low, it may be difficult to rent an apartment. If you try to apply for a car loan, your interest rate may be higher. A credit score is perceived as a yardstick for measuring how well you manage your finances.”

Erickson added, “When I talk with students out in the community, I tell them that a credit score is kind of like a walking GPA. I think we need to do a much better job of making our young people financially literate. In the United States, there are only 17 states that require a financial literacy class to be taken in high school. Minnesota is not one of those states. What I encourage parents to do is to get their kids a low balance credit card ($300 limit), so they can practice paying their bills on time, and understand how the interest rate will impact them if they don’t. A national law was enacted in 2011 that prevents a young person from getting a credit card in their own name before their 21st birthday.”

“When we hit the 2008 recession,” Erickson continued, “a lot of people got scared and moved from credit cards to debit cards. It’s very important to understand that using a debit card does not affect your credit score positively or negatively. In other words, it does nothing for your credit score—and you have to have credit to get credit.”

Monson underscored, “When someone comes in to apply for a home mortgage, they need to show proof of three (what we call) trade lines: either a credit card, a car loan, a student loan, or another line of credit. We caution everyone to avoid minimum payments whenever possible, and to manage their spending so that they can pay off the full balance every month.”

To register for the community workshop on Oct. 18, email rsvp@toplinecu.com. Space is limited, and refreshments will be served. Information on TopLine available on their website, www.TopLinecu.com.

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First buildings to come down in preparation for soccer stadium

First buildings to come down in preparation for soccer stadium

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Calvin


Part of Midway Center is now under the control of Minnesota United FC lead owner Bill McGuire. A master lease agreement, signed just days before an Aug. 20 project deadline, allows for the demolition of Rainbow Foods (photo right) and other businesses to the east. That, in turn, allows for construction of the new $200 million Allianz Field stadium to move forward.

The master lease affects 15.6 acres of the property bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues and Pascal St. McGuire and RD Management, one of the New York-based entities that own the shopping center property, reached the agreement.

The new master lease means that the St. Paul Port Authority, which worked for several months with the shopping center owners on a similar agreement, now steps away from that aspect of redevelopment.

The Port had worked for months on a master lease with the potential to purchase the property. Since March those talks had included Milwaukee developer Irgens to redevelop the entire shopping center with Minnesota United. But that package was never finalized.
Port Authority President Lee Krueger confirmed the new master lease. “What this means is Bill McGuire struck his own deal.”

Minnesota United, RD Management and most business owners and managers aren’t commenting about the new master lease, not returning calls and declining comment when questions are asked at individual stores. Rainbow Foods, Home Choice rental center, Pearle Vision, Midway Pro Bowl and Walgreens appear to be the affected businesses. Home Choice has already moved out and is telling customers to visit their Roseville store.

Minnesota United issued a statement after the master lease news, saying, “We are continuing to work with the landowner as part of moving the stadium project forward.”

Midway Pro Bowl co-owners Scott Koecheler and Alan Loth have been the most vocal about their lease termination, confirming that they have been given 90 days to move out.

Koecheler and Loth announced that while they intend to pursue all legal options, and will offer open bowling and single-day events for the time being, they won’t schedule leagues for 2017-2018. They’ve asked bowlers with equipment in lockers to come and pick up their things.

“It has been a pleasure to be part of the community,” they said in a statement posted on social media. “It’s very difficult to go out like this.” They have owned Midway Pro Bowl since 1983. The business opened in 1960. One challenge they face is how to remove everything within 90 days.

The August 20 deadline called for the soccer stadium developers to have site control of the property they needed for that aspect of the project. Heavy construction began on the stadium earlier this summer, but without site control, Minnesota United and lead contractor Mortenson Construction couldn’t pull permits for the northernmost two acres they need to complete the stadium itself. Those permits can now be issued by the city.

McGuire can now choose whichever developer or developers he’ll work with to redevelop the property he controls under the master lease. That property includes the western part of the shopping center and parking. It doesn’t include land in the northeast corner of the site and along Snelling that was split off a few years ago. Those properties include the Big Top Liquor building and the former American Bank. Nor does it include the easternmost part of Midway Center, where businesses can continue to operate.

When work on a master lease began earlier this year, Port Authority and Minnesota United officials emphasized the complexity of the deal. Midway Center is split into different parcels with different ownership structures and different mortgage issues.

Existing Midway Center leases, and how those are structured for termination, are another factor. Port Authority documents released earlier this year indicate that the shopping center was bringing in out $2.3 million per year.

How to respond to the change in the master lease is an issue for a Union Park District Council (UPDC) and Hamline-Midway Coalition task force. UPDC Executive Director Julie Reiter said the group has been focusing on community benefits and what those mean when the stadium opens. Scrutiny of small business impacts, assisted by a Macalester College class, starts this fall.

“There are questions about what happens to the businesses and if any can stay in the Center or have to close,” Reiter said. Members of the UPDC land use committee agreed that they’ll have to watch issues play out.

Kruger said that no matter who holds the master lease, it means that the stadium construction can proceed toward a 2019 opening and that seeing the project move ahead is what is most important. “That’s what’s positive here,” he said.

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Development Roundup

Development Roundup

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Calvin

Compiled by JANE MCCLURE

Thomas Avenue Flats
The Thomas Avenue Flats project took another step ahead Aug. 2. The St. Paul City Council gave preliminary approval to the project and authorized the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) to issue conduit multi-family revenue bonds for the affordable housing project at 1500 Thomas Ave.

The project went through site plan review with city staff on Aug, 29. It isn’t clear whether any additional zoning changes or variances are needed. It is already zoned for multi-family use.

The property at the southwest corner of Thomas and Simpson St. was once part of the Samaritan Hospital complex. It has been open space for decades. In the 1980s, it was developed into a privately-owned sculpture park, which was open for the public to enjoy for several years. Despite pressure from neighbors it never became a city-owned park.

As the property changed hands, most sculptures were removed, and the gates were closed.

Different developers have looked at the property since then, and a few proposals have made it to City Hall for review. But none of the other development ideas have materialized.

The project by the Thomas Avenue Flats Limited Partnership/MWF Properties calls for a bond issue of up to $9 million, for a 51-unit, four-story multi-family residential building. The developers have worked with the city for more than a year on the project. In summer 2016 the developers requested an initial amount of $1.3 million in federal HOME funds toward the project.

Plans call for underground parking, outdoor patio, fitness center, lockers, and laundry on each floor.

Agreement reached in dispute
A dispute over storefront restoration and expansion of a historic University and Raymond avenues building has been resolved, as the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) and Exeter Group LLC resolved their disagreement over plans for storefront redevelopment at 2400 University Ave. (Photo right)

The HPC had denied a building permit request in June. An appeal to the City Council was set to be heard in August but was withdrawn.

At issue was how to rehabilitate the street-level storefront spaces.

Much of the property has been transformed from an old trucking company and warehouse into the C & E Lofts apartments. The main area that has not been redeveloped is the storefronts along University. The space has one future tenant, a second location for the Naughty Greek restaurant.
The storefront area has about 6,000 square feet of commercial space. It has housed many different businesses over the years and is eyed for conversion for two new businesses.
The debate over the request generated more than 70 emails to HPC staff with most focused on the prospect of the new restaurant. But the commission doesn’t regulate property use.

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Como students in France

News from Como Park High School

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Calvin

Compiled by ERIC ERICKSON, Social Studies Teacher

• The national Advanced Placement (AP) Exam results administered by the College Board were released over the summer and Como students earned hundreds of college credits. AP scores are categorized on a five-point scale for each test taken in a particular subject, with colleges and universities generally awarding credit for scores of 3, 4 or 5. In total, 333 AP Exams taken by Como students earned scores of 3 or higher.

The rigor of AP courses and the effort put forth by students to succeed in them is optimal preparation for future college studies, regardless of test scores. Experience in AP is also favorable to students in college admission decisions, demonstrating a commitment to challenging study in courses of a student’s interests, according to the College Board.
The College Board also revealed its individual student awards which are based on multiple exams across a variety of disciplines being passed at high levels. “AP Scholar” status is granted to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP exams.

Como AP Scholars include: Aiyana Aeikens, Kajsa Andersson, Mark Brenner, Jared Czech, Adina Degaetano, Arturo di Girolamo, Henrie Friesen, Isaac Harker, Mahad Hussein, Jacob Kingson, Georgie Kinsman, Andrei Konieczny, Lizzy Larson, Jackson Lee, Song Lee, Alice Lightfoot, Max Narvaez, Asia Nor, Celia Olson, Duane Pawlitschek, Trenton Phillippi, Bridget Proper, Serena Raths, Rachel Ruskin, Mario Sanchez-Lopez, Phillip Snoxell, Isak Stillwelljardin, Jack Swartz, Jade Walmann, Marie Wulff, and Keleenah Yang.

The AP Scholar with Honor award is granted to students who earn an average score of 3.25 on all AP exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams. Como AP Scholars with Honor include: Theo Axtell-Adams, Eli Freberg, Eva Hanson, Hannah Lender, Anthony Phelps, Thomas Quinn, Ben Schafer, Antero Sivula, Emma Wallisch, Christian Berger, Stephen Boler, Dylan Brady, Lucas Carmichael-Tanaka, Noah Frese, Eleanor Harker, Mira Kammueller, Jackson Kerr, Joe McCune-Zierath, Jackson Muehlbauer, Vincent Portuese, Gabe Reynolds, Shyann Salverda, Josie Schermerhorn, Claire Spoonheim, Minna Stillwelljardin, Divine Uchegbu, and Elianna Wiersma.

National AP Scholar is a distinction granted to students in the U.S. who earn an average score of at least 4 on all AP exams taken, and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams. Como’s National AP Scholars include: Arlo Beckman, Elias Pattison, Hannah Rhee, Nate Stover, and Dominic Wolters.

Grace Commers earned the AP International Diploma, which is awarded to students who have scored 3 or higher on five or more AP Exams in content areas incorporating world languages, world cultures, global perspectives, math and science, and are applying to schools outside of the U.S.

Como’s AP program continues to grow with more students opting to study rigorous courses of their choosing at the college level in over 20 courses taught by College Board certified Como teachers.

• 10 Como French students traveled to Belgium and France with Mademoiselle Patricia Teefy for two weeks of exciting international discovery and cross cultural exchange during the summer break. The trip was made possible in part by students receiving Xperitas Global Scholarships.

Photo right: Como Park High School French students spent two weeks immersed in the language while traveling in Belgium and France and staying with host families. The students also visited many cultural attractions. The group is pictured here in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. (Photo provided)

Some of the highlight moments included learning about the European Parliament in Brussels, taking a high-speed train to Paris, exploring museums such as the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, as well as monuments and historical landmarks. Eating Belgian Waffles in Belgium was also a peak experience!

The main component of the travel adventure was the weeklong family stay in the Atlantic coastal city of Nantes. Como students used their French and gained more confidence in the language as they shared daily life with their French hosts, doing everything from cooking a meal, to ocean swimming, to exploring the Medieval castle of Nantes. International friendships were formed while developing an appreciation for other cultures and increasing global awareness.

The Como traveling group members were Raiyne Adams, Dina Thoresen, Chloe Hollister-Lapointe, Willow Hollister-Lapointe, Serena Raths, Stephanie Nguyen, Jade Waldmann, LayLay Zan, Yocelin Martinez, and Mario Sanchez-Lopez.

• Como’s Academy of Finance (AOF) has retained and secured new business partners that will mentor AOF students across all grade levels. The mentors develop relationships with students at school and guide them in simulations and coursework, building toward site visits and internship opportunities at their workplaces.

AOF partners for this 2017-2018 school year include Xcel Energy, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the St. Paul City Government, Travelers, Thomson Reuters, and the St. Paul Public Schools Finance Department.

• Como Park High School’s “Link Crew” is composed of 60 juniors and seniors that volunteer to be positive leaders and mentors for freshmen. The Link Crew welcomed and hosted Como’s incoming class of 2021 on Aug. 31 for an orientation session. The Link Crew Leaders prepared for the event with two days of training that focused on community and fellowship, leading up to the implementation of inclusive activities that provided the new students with a chance to get comfortable and make connections before classes began. The faculty advisors for Como’s Link Crew are Maria Cocchiarella and Alisson Hartzell.

• Construction of Como’s new turf field inside the existing track began over the summer, along with the addition of classroom space to the west wing of the building. Unfortunately, construction delays, street repairs, and damp conditions have put the field’s completion behind schedule. Originally scheduled for completion by Aug. 18 to host this season’s football and soccer games, the new turf field target completion date is Oct. 11, according to the project managers.

The building improvements at Como are part of the Facilities Master Plan that the St. Paul Public School District is currently implementing. For more information and images of the school design, visit the link www.spps.org/Page/22920.

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