WAPS does not meet goals; no change for this year

The Winona Area Public Schools school board met on Thursday, Nov. 21, for a hearing about the Worlds Best WorkForce and regular business after.

Maurella Cunningham, director of learning and teaching at the district office explained the results from the 2018-19 WBWA plan and described the WBWA plan for 2019-20.

In the 2018-19 school year, the district met two of their seven goals detailed in the 2018-19 WBWA plan.

Those two goals were to decrease the reading proficiency score gap between white students and students of color and American-Indian students and the district was able to raise enrollment in preschool.

The five goals not met included the four-year graduation rates from Winona Senior High School and the Winona Learning Center.

The goal for Winona Senior High School was to increase graduation rates from 93% to 94%. The rate ended up decreasing from 93% to 91.9%.

Another goal was to close the gap between white students, students of color and American-Indian students on the math proficiency part of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.

“In Math, the difference in percent proficient on the MCA assessment between white students & students of color and American Indian students will decrease from 26.7% to 20%, for all grade levels tested,” the 2018-19 WBWF plan read.

Other goals not met included kindergarten letter sounds, third-grade reading level increase, and average ACT scores increase.

Cunningham described WBWF goals for the 2019-20 school year.

The basis of most of the goals did not change from the 2018-19 WBWF plan to the 2019-20 WBWF plan.

For example, the goal to close the gap in math proficiency MCA scores between white, colored and American-Indian students stayed the same. The only part that changed was the starting point to reflect the increased gap from the previous year.

“In Math, the difference in percent proficient on the MCA assessment between white students & students of color and American Indian students will decrease from 25.3% in 2019 to 20% in 2020, for all grade levels tested,” the 2019-20 WBWF plan states as the goal.

The only goal that changed was the four-year graduation rates.

For the 2019-20 WBWF plan, the goal is to have an increase in four-year graduation rates at the Winona Senior Highschool from 93% to 94% and an increase from 13.2% to 14% at the Winona Area Learning Center.

One goal was added to the 2019-20 WBWF plan.

The new goal is to have high school juniors who take a college or career readiness assessment to have scores no lower than 85%.

The board will hear a revised version of the 2019-20 WBWF plan on Thursday, Dec. 5.

Superintendent, Annette Freiheit reads through various changes to different school policies. These changes were mostly grammatical or were not what the school was doing.

School Board Chair, Nancy Denzer said she looks forward to seeing the plan written in a meaningful way.

“I really want to see some SMART goals and things that we can achieve and I really want to see the whole Worlds Best Workforce written in a way that is meaningful,” Denzer said.

SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

In the regular meeting, the school board heard from speakers on a variety of topics.

“We want staff members to present not necessarily administrators,” Denzer said.

Teachers from each school in the district came to speak about the progress of the new Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program. They reported that students and faculty and staff have been receiving the program well.

One presentation Denzer said she enjoyed was a report from staff members about the progress of a new program called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.

Each school in the district has at least one teacher heading the program in that school. Each is seeing tremendous results in the beginning stages of implementation.

The school board also discussed the process of adding a student chair to the board.

School Board Clerk Michael Hanratty brought the idea to the board after attending the annual conference last year and meeting other district’s student representatives.

“He got excited about it and wanted to do it,” Denzer said. “So we are going to shepherd it in and see what happens.”

The next school board meeting will be Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. at Winona City Hall.

Parking causes issues for Friendship Center

The Friendship Center in Downtown Winona needs more parking as it is the number one complaint from members.  

The issue comes mostly because the Friendship Center serves the senior citizens of the area, many of whom have a harder time walking long distances or making it across the street in the time allowed. 

Roxy Kohner has been a member of the center for almost 11 years. She said sometimes she will come to the center an hour before an event to wait out a close enough parking spot. 

“I have driven by and without a place to park I had to turn around and go back because there wasn’t anything within the walking distance that I can do,” Kohner said. “I have also staked out parking. So I have come an hour ahead of time and I will park and do something in my car till I can watch and see someone pull out.” 

Malia Fox, director of the Friendship Center, said this is the most frequent complaint the center gets. 

A report from 2018 state there is adequate parking for the City of Winona. 

The report titled “Parking Study: Downtown Winona” was created by Walker Consultants. They studied an area of 42 blocks between the Mississippi River, Winona Street, Broadway Street and Kanas Street. 

Walker Consultants found that in the study area there were about 4,030 spaces available of which about 3,205 spaces were for public use. 

Parking continues to be a problem for the Friendship Center despite the findings in the Walker report.  

Across Fifth Street from the Friendship Center is the Main Street Square Development. The construction workers and equipment take up many spots that are closest to the center, which has caused more lack of parking.

Winona Major, Mark Peterson, said parking has been an issue for the center since it started 40 years ago. 

“The complaints are very real which is why the city has been looking at a solution to solving the problem,” Peterson said. “The past couple of years the city has seriously been considering moving the center.”

There will be a meeting on Nov. 13 to discuss parking further. 

There was talk from the city about knocking down the old middle school auditorium and creating a parking lot there. 

According to Kohner, that would not fix the problem.

“That is a band-aid because many of us have limited mobility. So even if we do have parking you’re talking two blocks away,” Kohner said. “I won’t be able to go two blocks either. I can go a block if a stretch it, half a block is perfect.” 

One quasi-solution the center had was making a deal with Wesely United Methodist Church which is next door to them. The Friendship Center can use the church’s parking area as long as the church does not have an event going on. 

The parking the church said the center can use is not reserved for the Friendship Center. It is public parking. 

The center has a membership of 1,000 people with an average daily attendance of 125. They also have staff coming in and out of the building every day. 

According to Fox, the Main Street Square Development across the street has hindered their membership. 

“In the last 6-8 months that this development has been occurring, we are watching our numbers drop for the first time in 25 years,” Fox said. 

The story behind Pickwick Mill

The Pickwick Mill in Pickwick, Minnesota, started in 1856 by Thomas Grant and Wilson Davis. 

The building started as a sawmill but was later converted to produce flour. It is the oldest flour mill found in Southeast Minnesota. 

The mill was a water-powered gristmill on Big Trout Creek. 

In 1917 the roof was damaged by a cyclone. When it was repaired they put a flat roof on instead of the gable roof. 

When the historical society took it over they returned the roof to the gable roof it originally had. 

The mill has several flights of stairs each with the names of people who have worked there.

Now the mill is still intact but is no longer used to make flour. It stands as a historic site and museum. 

George Johnson, of Rushford, Minnesota, visited the mill on Saturday, Oct. 5. He said he thought it was a beautiful historic place. 

Jeff Wershofen started working at the mill as a child because it was where there was adult supervision. 

Throughout the mill, there are flour bags hung. On the top floor of the mill, they have many strung together with other artifacts.

Wershofen described his experience at the mill as part of a perfect childhood. 

To find out more about Pickwick Mill and Wershofen’s experiences watch the following video.

Winona gets funky at the Levee

Rhythm @the River was attneded by people of Winona and the surrounding area on Sunday, Sept. 15, at Levee park. 

The event included dance lessons, live music, craft beer, and food trucks. 

Organizers spent between $12,000 and $15,000 to organize the event. 

Lee Gundersheimer, arts and culture coordinator at WINONArts said many sponsors believe in WINONArts and helped pay for the event, in addition to fundraising. 

Rhythm @ the River is an expanded 2018 version of “Swinging in the Streets.” 

Organizers said the event was moved to Levee Park and made it bigger because last year 400 people participated on Third Street.  

Molly Breitlow (left) helps a couple with their salsa turns. Breitlow and her husband taught both of the lessons at Rhythm @ the River.

Rhythm @ the River was created as a part of a series of events that WINONArts puts on according to Gunersheimer.

“The event is part of the Dance Plein Air events in WINONArts, the City’s initiative to bring as many folks together with the arts and through as many different art forms as possible, dance being one of them,” Gunersheimer said. 

Winona State Students Emma and Scout were on their way to study at Blue Heron and decided to see what was going on. 

The two got snow cones at one of the food trucks and sat down in the grassy area of the park to enjoy the music. 

“I really like the Spanish music,” Emma said. “I think we definitely would come to this again.” 

Golpe Tierra was the first band to perform during the night. They are from Madison Wis., and are an Afro Cuban Jazz and Salsa Band.

Rhythm @ the River was also the kick-off to Project FINE’s Welcome Week.

Welcome Week helps create a more welcoming community for immigrants and people who have relocated to Winona, according to Gunersheimer. 

Racial issues exhibit visits Rochester

By: Erin Jones and Andrew Schouweiler

A smaller version of the Science Museum of Minnesota’s RACE exhibit is on display at the Rochester Public Library until April 30, 2019.

Before the library, Rochester’s Apache Mall hosted the RACE exhibit.

The mini versions of the RACE exhibit, according to the Science Museum of Minnesota, are 500 square-feet and include easy-to-set-up displays for smaller venues like the library and the mall.

The content of each display is created to be easily understood, so people of all ages can participate in the walk-through exhibit.

Kim Edson, head of readers’ services at Rochester Public Library, explained the goal of the RACE exhibit.

“It takes it from both a scientific point of view – looking at race from a biological level, by the way, there’s no such thing – and it also explores the sociological concept of race and how it has had many impacts in our culture,” Edson said.

Rochester was home to the RACE exhibit for eight months in 2010. The exhibit was brought back this year through grants from the federal government.

Dee Sabol, executive director of Rochester’s Diversity Council, explained how the grants allowed the Science Museum to work with the Rochester Public Library to bring the RACE exhibit back to Rochester.

“They were able to create the smaller, traveling versions of the RACE exhibit and bring them out to the community through those grant funds,” Sabol said.

According to Winona State University’s Associate Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity Jonathan Locust, funds toward the exhibit’s return were also donated by the Inclusion and Diversity office.

“There were donations from my office in particular for the amount of $500, as well as a donation from WSU-Rochester in the amount of $500,” Locust said.

Locust said donating to the exhibit was beneficial to Winona State and to people in communities surrounding the exhibit who may not know the history of race and racism.

He said much of the history people have learned over time is not inclusive of people who are of different races, genders, ethnicities and abilities.

“Our history has been completely whitewashed,” Locust said. “Having people go out and doing some digging on their own [then being able to say], ‘What information has been left out of the history that I’ve learned?’ And then maybe ask those deeper questions, ‘Why has it been left out?’”

Edson and Sabol both said getting people to ask those hard questions and generating conversation about race and racism is another part of the RACE exhibit’s purpose.

“We believe this exhibit gives people an opportunity to think a little bit deeper about the topic,” Edson said. “Our goal is to engage community conversations about this issue and hopefully impact change.”

Sabol said so far, the exhibit has been successful in generating community discussion.

She said when the RACE exhibit was in Rochester in 2010, people left angry and disagreed with the information presented in the displays.

“They would come back more than once and it would at least get them involved in a discussion and I think that’s really the point is to look at something a little bit differently,” Sabol said.

Traffic to the exhibit this year has been high as well, according to Locust.

With the exhibit in the mall during the holidays, the flow of visitors was heavy, which carried over into the following months.

“We know we got some heavy traffic right around MLK Day, we know we got some in February for Black History Month because there are some people who did some programs in there,” Locust said.

Edson and Sabol said with conversation about race being generated within the community, they are working on trying to find a permanent home in Rochester for the RACE exhibit.

Grant funds have given Edson and Sabol the opportunity to put on additional programming, so members of the community can take advantage of other resources to learn about race.

“We’ll have speakers and presenters now who will talk about different aspects of race and racism,” Sabol explained. “There are other learning opportunities, some workshops and things like that [and] we hope to have a couple film screenings as well.”

Jacob Bleess and the Need for Speed

By Zach Bailey

As he left class on a cool, Friday afternoon last fall, Jacob Bleess knew the big day was finally upon him. He dropped his backpack off at home, grabbed his gear and began getting in the zone for later that evening.

He walked past the grandstands, ready for what that night might bring him. After putting on his gear, he took a couple slow breaths, then slid his helmet on. He took one last look at the packed grandstands.

Then he ignited the engine to his racecar.

Bleess, a senior business administration major from Chatfield, Minnesota, is one of hundreds of Winona State students who would consider themselves “nontraditional student-athletes.”

A nontraditional student-athlete is a student who participates in a sport that is not university sponsored, or is not a varsity level sport, such as club sports like rugby and hockey, or, in Bleess’ case, stock car racing.

Bleess was initially introduced to the fast-paced world of racing at the age of 10, when his father first got him into go-kart racing. After two years behind the wheel of a go-kart, Bleess began feeling the urge for more power, the need for speed.

Bleess moved out of the go-kart industry and hopped behind the wheel of a full-sized “B-Modified” stock car, four years before he would be legally allowed to climb behind the wheel of a full-sized car on the road. He continued to race his B-Mod for the next four years, then moved his way up to the top stock car class in the “A-Modified” division, where he has remained since.

Stock car racing, otherwise known as dirt track racing, is similar to NASCAR racing in which a pack of cars race counterclockwise around a track. The main difference between the two is swapping out the traditional asphalt of NASCAR to a mixture of dirt and clay, as well as the various body styles and build of the cars.

Bleess can be seen weekly throughout the April-October season at local tracks such as Mississippi Thunder Speedway in Fountain City, Wisconsin, and Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, Minnesota.

A majority of his races are in the area, but it is not uncommon for Bleess to go farther south for the racing series, traveling to places such as Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas, among others.

Even though a majority of the racing season takes place over the summer, the first and last couple of months do take place during the school year, which can make things difficult for Bleess.

“We go down south during the summer, but while in school we stay close to home so I can do my homework and go to class,” Bleess said. “All that fun stuff.”

Along with a few months of actual racing, the off-season can also be a busy time for Bleess, as he uses this time to swap parts on his car and make sure everything is ready to go come spring.

Though his racing schedule is more open than that of a traditional student-athlete, Bleess said there are conflicting schedules at certain times of the year.

“There are conflicts with school and racing, but school does come first,” Bleess said. “If it’s a big event, though, I go racing first, then do school work as needed.”

As a nontraditional student-athlete, there are many perks that Bleess and other athletes do not receive because their sport is not university sponsored.

Justin Loehr, the associate athletic director of the Student-Athlete Success Center, said that the main disadvantage to being a nontraditional student-athlete would be the resources the students do not have available to them.

Along with various sports scholarships, there are also other resources that nontraditional student-athletes could be missing out on, such as the Student-Athlete Success Center.

“[The Student-Athlete Success Center] helps student athletes in many ways,” Loehr said. “They hold weekly academic meetings with first-semester athletes, and athletes under the required GPA, as well as make referrals to tutoring services, access services and help with both career and major exploration.”

Along with the missing resources available, both agreed that there are other struggles to being a nontraditional student-athlete, such as professors’ reactions to missing class.

“It depends on the individual professor and how student communicates with them but being a part of a university-sponsored event helps (when missing class for a sport).”

Bleess had similar things to say about different professors’ willingness to mark him excused for missing class.

“I try not to skip class; school comes first,” Bleess said. “Some professors don’t mind (skipping class for racing), but some do.”

In the end, however, it is not all challenges.

“I don’t have weekly meetings to go to like a football player would. I mostly get to pick my own times to race and work on the car,” Bleess said. “I can do schoolwork whenever I want, and put in the amount of hours I want to put in. I can pick and choose which races to go to, and when to take a break from school to work on the car.”

 

 

Zach Bailey is a senior marketing and mass communication-journalism major from Winona, Minnesota. He is the editor-in-chief of the Winonan, the Winona State student newspaper, as well as a member of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. In his free time, he enjoys racing motorcycles, playing guitar, reading and watching movies. He hopes to one day work for the New York Times and become a published author.

Pieces of Winona’s Past

By Zach Bailey

 

The stairs creak with each step as Pieces of the Past owner, Cheri Peterson, walks down the stairs toward the basement office.

With each step, the temperature drops by a fraction of a degree as the smell of cold, damp air begins to flood the senses.

Peterson reaches the office, walks to the far end, and opens the large metal door separating the office from the rest of the building’s cellar.

She fumbles for the switch, and as she finally finds the chain and pulls it, light floods the room of the storage center.

She rounds the corner and takes a left, so that she is standing directly below the front room of the store.

“This is where most of the activity happens,” Peterson says, glancing across the scattered Christmas decorations and shelving units.

She pauses for a moment, taking in the view, then turns around and begins walking deeper into the building’s underbelly.

She reaches a thick, metal, sliding door at the far end of the room, and, showing the effort it took to open the door, explains that she does not enter this room often.

A rush of cold air passes by as the door finally slides open and the temperature drops another half-dozen degrees.

She walks into the open space, which houses only two pillars and an old vinyl sign. She is now standing under the back room of the store, where most employees and customers say they have experienced something… abnormal.

“Customers quite frequently say there’s something strange going on in the back half of the store, like someone was standing behind them,” Peterson says. “[I have even] had a customer send photographs of faces reflected in glass. Usually it’s feel but every once in a while, [customers/employees] get a sight [of something strange].”

Peterson quickly walks out of the room, takes one last look at the cellar, then closes the inch-thick metal door, not to open it again until the next curious ghost hunter wants to take a look.

Peterson first opened Pieces of the Past in downtown Winona in January 1995. The store, which began as a wooden furniture shop, made the transition to the home-decor side of sales after moving to the Second and Lafayette streets location in 2000, where they have been since.

This was where the strange happenings began.

The building that now houses Pieces of the Past was built in 1852 and plays quite a role in the haunting’s dark history.

The front half of the store is the oldest building in downtown Winona. The only brick structure downtown, it was the only building to survive the fire of 1856, which destroyed nearly all of downtown Winona, and most of Winona as a whole.

But according to Peterson, there’s more to the building’s history than just its age.

“We’ve found evidence that the building itself was tied to five different deaths,” Peterson said. “Before we moved in, the building had been a bar and brothel in the red-light district.”

Peterson recounted how after moving to their Second Street location, two men who had worked as bartenders in the building came in one day and told her stories of strange things they had seen while working.

The men told of pool balls rolling across the table by themselves and noises being heard when there were no customers around, but they ended with one story that stuck in Peterson’s mind.

“The two were working one night and had to walk downstairs to change a keg or grab something. As they were walking down the steps, they both paused, looked at each other, and said, ‘When we get upstairs, let’s both write down what we saw,’” Peterson said. “They got back upstairs, wrote down what they saw, and showed each other. Both had seen a woman in a pink dress walk past them on the stairway.”

According to Peterson and Haunted Places, a website that documents haunted locations across the nation, Pieces of the Past is home to at least five spirits. Ghosts include the woman from the story, who was apparently shot to death on one of the staircases, and a young girl the ghost hunters identified as “Carol.”

“I’ve caught glimpses of a girl in a yellow dress before. I’ll see her out of the corner of my eye, then when I turn to look she’s gone,” Peterson said. “There was even one time where I was downstairs in the office and I felt a tug on my pant leg. I turned around and there was nothing there, so I went back to my business. A few minutes later it happened again.”

Peterson isn’t the only current employee who has experienced things in the building.

“Some staff members have said they have been tapped on the shoulder or hear things like someone calling their name, or hearing someone say hello, all when no one else is [in the building],” Peterson said. “Employees will come in during the morning to find pictures out of place or find that things had fallen down overnight.”

Trianna Douglas, one of the current employees at Pieces of the Past, recently experienced what she believes to be something paranormal.

“I was here later in the day. Business had been steady but slowed down in the afternoon,” Douglas said. “I was standing up front all alone when I heard it.”

Creak.

Creak.

Creak.

Off to her right, she began to hear footsteps walking toward her, moving down the stairs from the back section of the store, to the front section.

Creak.

Creak.

Creak.

The footsteps stopped at the bottom of the stairs, less than 10 feet from the front desk, then she heard them walk back up the wheelchair ramp next to the stairs.

Creak.

Creak.

Creak.

“For 20 minutes solid you could hear someone walking in circles,” Douglas said. “Up the ramp, then down the stairs.”

Though employees and customers alike have experienced things out of the ordinary, Peterson and staff do not believe there is any reason to be scared.

“Nothing has happened where it feels evil,” Peterson said. “There is no threatening feeling.”

 

 

Zach Bailey is a senior marketing and mass communication-journalism major from Winona, Minnesota. He is the editor-in-chief of the Winonan, the Winona State student newspaper, as well as a member of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. In his free time, he enjoys racing motorcycles, playing guitar, reading and watching movies. He hopes to one day work for the New York Times and become a published author.

Tattoo Taboo: A Personal Narrative

By Erin Jones

 

You’re going to regret those tattoos someday.”

“Did your tattoos hurt?”

“You’ll never get a job with those tattoos.”

“What do your tattoos mean?”

Ahem, cue the eye roll, please.

And people say there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

OK, OK, so maybe they aren’t stupid questions, but they’re annoying to me nonetheless.

But it’s not just the intrusive questions and comments about my tattoos that are frustrating to me.

The line was crossed this past summer when I worked in the cosmetics department at Herberger’s.

I was helping a woman who asked to test a makeup color on my skin, which I thought was odd considering I wasn’t the one who was going to be wearing it.

Before waiting for my response, she grabbed my arm rudely and applied the color to my wrist.

She twisted my arm around awkwardly for a minute and finally decided against the color.

Just when I thought I was done being this woman’s Barbie doll, she pulled my arm back again.

“Your tattoos are beautiful,” she said, peering closely at the seahorse on my forearm. “I love them.”

“Thanks?” I said, trying to be as polite as possible while tugging my arm out of her grip.

Eventually she left, but even after she was gone I felt uncomfortable.

The incident reminded me of the other times that people had asked invasive questions and made unnecessary comments about my tattoos.

And it’s not just one or two of my tattoos that receive unwanted comments. It’s all 20 of them, and being asked feels more like an interrogation for a crime I didn’t commit.

“Those tattoos are going to look bad when you’re old.”

“How are you going to hide those on your wedding day?”

“Boys don’t like girls with tattoos.”

“Do you have any tattoos in hidden places?”

I started to wonder if there was anyone else who had the same cringy feelings I did when asked about their ink.

Turns out, I was right. After getting in contact with someone with similar experiences, we were able to talk out our frustrations together.

Rachel Carter, who is from La Crosse, Wisconsin, and is a Winona State University graduate, has her own collection of tattoos and talked about the uneasiness she feels when asked about her body art, particularly her Doctor Who tattoos.

“All of my tattoos have really deep, significant meaning to me,” Carter explained. “I’m a military sexual trauma survivor, so there’s a lot of trauma and personal history. Things that I’ve accomplished and overcome.”

Carter also said that some people continue to ask her questions about her tattoos, even when she’s expressed that she doesn’t want to share their meaning.

“I’ve had people who I don’t really know, or maybe I’m in a situation where I don’t really want to talk about it, say, ‘Cool, tell me about your tattoos,’” Carter said. “I’ll tell them they have really deep meaning to me, but they’ll just keep wanting me to tell them more when I don’t want to talk about it, but they feel like they have a right to know.”

In addition, Carter told me she’s also had an experience like mine, when she was touched by a person she didn’t know.

“I’ve been at the YMCA working out and I stopped to talk to a friend and somebody passed by and was like, ‘Oh, I really like your tattoos!’ and then stroked my arm because I have a full sleeve on my arm, very caressing, like you would think a spouse or a significant other would, and then just walked away,” Carter said.

We pondered for a few minutes, but neither of us could figure out why a perfect stranger would think it’s OK to touch another person without permission.

“I don’t know if it’s because they think, ‘Oh, people have tattooed your arms, so you must be fine with being touched’ or ‘Your tattoos are on display, so you must be fine with people asking,’” Carter said.

And yet, it’s not fine. People still grab your arm to get a closer look or ask questions and make comments that aren’t really necessary.

But for me, it’s not the strangers who do these things that bother me the most. It’s my family’s comments that get on my nerves more than anything else.

For my dad, Jeff Jones, his comments mostly concern professionalism and the ability to get a job after finishing college.

He added that in his career, he hasn’t met any professionals who are covered head-to-toe in tattoos.

“Most of the people I work with are old white guys and ladies,” my dad said. “In the corporate world, most of the people I refer to are managers, directors, vice presidents and junior vice presidents who make a lot of money and as far as I know, they don’t have any tattoos.”

Despite saying this, my dad did recognize that in certain careers, tattoos don’t seem to matter much.

“Look at professional athletes. A lot of them have tattoos,” my dad said. “They have a career for 10 or 15 years, so they don’t have to go out with their resume and find another job. It all depends on the profession.”

When I asked if he worried about me finding a job after college, surprisingly, he said he wasn’t too concerned.

“No, you’re smart, you’ll be fine,” my dad said. “As long as you don’t get any on your face or your neck or your chest or wherever.”

Lucky for him, I don’t have plans to get any of those places tattooed; however, I told him that the 20 I’ve gotten so far aren’t going anywhere.

He surprised me again by saying that he doesn’t mind the ones I have now. Well, most of them.

“[Your tattoos are] good,” my dad said. “I’m not sure about the gummy bear one. That one’s a little weird. And the Star Wars one, that one’s kind of weird too. But if you get a tattoo that means something to you, I’m not going to argue with that.”

Thanks, dad. After hearing the tattoo lecture 20 times, I’m kind of over it. And so is he. I’m glad we can finally sort of agree on the tattoo thing.

Now to get him on board with piercings. He is not much of a fan.

“Tattoos are tattoos, but what I don’t understand is people who put those big gauges in their ears. I definitely don’t want you doing something like that,” my dad said. “Hell no, I frickin’ can’t stand [gauges]. I’d rather have you get tattoos than put gauges in your ears or frickin’ things stickin’ out of your nose – That just looks stupid.”

 

 

 

Erin Jones is the former copy editor for Winona State University’s student-run newspaper, The Winonan. She expects to graduate in May 2019. Before being copy editor, she was one of The Winonan’s news reporters. Jones is majoring in mass communication-journalism and minoring in criminal justice. After graduation, she hopes to find a career in which she can use both her major and minor. She is also interested in being a feature writer or an editor for a magazine.

 

Animals Help Students

By Erin Jones 

Nothing quite resembles the bond between a person and their dog.

Or the bond between Winona State University junior, Violet De Stefano, and her emotional support hedgehog, Phillip.

De Stefano, public health major, and Lynda Brzezinski, who has been a counselor at Winona State since 2000, have experienced firsthand the positive effects that pets have on people.

De Stefano sees this positive impact on herself with the help of her quill-covered companion.

For Brzezinski, the impact is seen on the faces of Winona State students, faculty and staff who come to visit Winston and Aiden, the university’s on-staff therapy dogs.

“Winston is a very intuitive dog,” Brzezinski said. “There will be times when I have a student crying in my office where he will get out of his bed and just go sit calmly next to the student. Very amazing.”

Brzezinski added that despite Aiden’s being new to the university, he has done an exceptional job with the students.

“Aiden is a cutie who loves to snuggle. This was his first semester doing ‘Afternoons with Aiden,’ and I think students had a lot of fun with him,” Brzezinski said.

But dogs are not the only pets who love to cuddle.

De Stefano, who has borderline personality disorder, said Phillip loves to snuggle her, especially when she feels alone or anxious.

“One of the things with my case for borderline personality disorder is I struggle with abandonment. I have a really hard time when it comes to people leaving me in my life, whether it’s perceived leaving or them actually leaving me, so it’s really good to have Phillip around because he is an animal that is always there,” De Stefano said. “So if I’m feeling lonely or I’m worried, I can pick him up and it provides that calm space where I can watch him run around and he’s super cuddly and adorable.”

And though the positive effects of having pets is apparent in these cases, both De Stefano and Brzezinski said there was still a process to getting their pets allowed on Winona State grounds.

Brzezinski said that her process with Winston started when he was a puppy going through obedience classes at Family Dog Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

“[Family Dog Center] offered the therapy dog class and evaluation,” Brzezinski said. “Winston loves people and he is smart, so he passed the test with flying colors and was registered as a therapy dog at the age of 1 [the minimum age].”

Brzezinski added that once Winston passed his tests, she continued training in animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activities and cooperated with campus legal services so Winston would be permitted to work in counseling services.

“I had to do research, get letters of support and make a formal proposal to be allowed to have therapy dogs on campus,” Brzezinski said.

With Aiden, Brzezinski said, the training process was longer, as he failed his first certification test and needed time to “grow up.”

According to Brzezinski, working intelligence levels are different in all dogs, which helped explain Aiden’s need for extra training.

“Winston is an Australian cattle dog/rat terrier mix. Heelers have 95 percent working intelligence and can learn a command in five or fewer times,” Brzezinski said. “Aiden is a pug/boxer mix and they have something like 30 percent working intelligence. It can take a dog like Aiden 30-50 times to learn something, but most dogs can learn if given enough time and patience.”

Though both dogs are certified now, the process hasn’t ended. Brzezinski said training for therapy dogs never ends, as the training must continually be reinforced.

Brzezinski added that for Winston and Aiden to remain on-staff, she must follow strict rules.

“I have a lot of guidelines I need to follow – the dogs must be bathed and groomed, nails trimmed, I need to vacuum, there needs to be signage, I hold malpractice insurance that covers the dogs, they always need to be on a leash, etc.,” Brzezinski said.

De Stefano had to follow a similar process when getting Phillip approved to live on campus with her. Phillip did not have to go through training to become an emotional support animal.

De Stefano’s process started in April 2018, when she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

“[Borderline personality disorder] is complicated. It’s kind of like bipolar disorder, but much quicker. So I will go through periods of mania and depression and it can be within hours of each other,” De Stefano said. “It’s stressful because when you wake up, you’re not sure if you’re going to be manic or you’re going to be depressed or you’re going to have no motivation or all the motivation in the world.”

De Stefano said she had been having symptoms of the disorder since eighth grade but wasn’t certain until she consulted a professional.

“In April I was dating a guy and he and I had just broken up, and I panicked,” De Stefano said. “It was my first bout of extreme suicidal ideation, which was pretty scary. I ended up going to the hospital at Winona Health and I admitted myself into the Department of Behavioral Medicine because I was like, ‘OK, we gotta get something figured out here.’”

After receiving her diagnosis, a social worker at the hospital referred her to a local therapist, with whom she could talk about what she was going through.

This was where she first considered the possibility of getting an emotional support animal, specifically; a hedgehog.

De Stefano said that with her borderline personality disorder, one of her impulsive behaviors is to self-harm, especially when she fears someone is leaving her.

Because Phillip’s quills are sharp, De Stefano said, when holding him she feels she receives the same stimulus as self-harm but without actually hurting herself.

“I know it’s interesting. It’s not something that people normally think about and when I talked to my therapist and was like, ‘Hey, this is what I’m thinking,’ they were like, ‘Oh, that’s interesting, I wouldn’t have even thought of that,’” De Stefano said.

Since De Stefano adopted Phillip last June, he has helped her cope with her borderline personality disorder but getting him into the dorms wasn’t an easy feat.

De Stefano first had to obtain a statement letter from her therapist, listing her qualifications to have the animal and recommending it.

She then had to do an intake meeting with Access Services so they could determine whether she would be able to support the animal and if it would be a disruption to other students.

Eventually, De Stefano did get Phillip approved to live in the dorms, but that wasn’t the hardest part for her.

“[Having Phillip] wasn’t necessarily a problem, but it was. I had to acknowledge what I was struggling with and what I was going through because I had to have that conversation pretty constantly of ‘Oh, I have an emotional support hedgehog. The reason I have it is because I struggle with X, Y and Z,’” De Stefano said.

Despite these uncomfortable conversations, De Stefano said jumping through all the hoops to get Phillip has been worthwhile.

“He’s also taught me a lot of patience and compassion because hedgehogs are so time-consuming. I have to spend time with him every day to get him to warm up to me and to be comfortable and cute like the little Instagram hedgehogs that I follow,” De Stefano said. “You have to spend time with them and eventually, I’ve noticed that his quills will lay down when I pick him up. It’s taking a lot of time, but it’s incredible.”

So as it turns out, De Stefano helps Phillip as much as he helps her.

And, as it turns out in Brzezinski’s case too, Winston and Aiden do more than just comfort the students, faculty and staff of Winona State.

“We are the first university in the Minnesota State system to have therapy dogs on ‘staff,’ which I’m very proud about,” Brzezinski said. “There is often a lot of negative stigma around mental health and counseling, but I think the dogs help break down barriers and give [Counseling Services] a more positive image at times.”

 

 

 

Erin Jones is the former copy editor for Winona State University’s student-run newspaper, The Winonan. She expects to graduate in May 2019. Before being copy editor, she was one of The Winonan’s news reporters. Jones is majoring in mass communication-journalism and minoring in criminal justice. After graduation, she hopes to find a career in which she can use both her major and minor. She is also interested in being a feature writer or an editor for a magazine.

On-campus food shelf aids students

A food shelf at Winona State University has become increasingly successful with the help of numerous university and community resources.

The Warrior Cupboard, located in the university’s Integrated Wellness Complex, began operations in fall 2017.

Kim Zeiher, academic advisor and student leadership coordinator for Winona State’s TRIO program and one of the minds behind the Warrior Cupboard, talked about the initial reason for starting the food shelf.

“There were people on campus who were reporting that they saw the challenges students were facing with regard to food insecurity and then how that, in turn, caused challenges to academic success,” Zeiher said.

Zeiher added students within the TRIO program, as well as across campus, were choosing to buy textbooks over food.

Before the Warrior Cupboard came to Winona State, Zeiher said she had already created a “mini” food shelf for students within the TRIO program.

“They see food as you make choices about and so it had to do with either eliminating meals out of the day or eating low-quality food with poor nutrition,” Zeiher said. “We were talking about, ‘Well, how do we solve that problem?’”

The TRIO food shelf became a temporary solution for students, so creators of the Warrior Cupboard could rally faculty and staff for a larger, long-term food shelf.

Director of Integrated Wellness and another mind behind the Warrior Cupboard, Kate Noelke, explained how the university got a better idea of how many students were in need of food.

“We did a survey in the spring of 2015 asking the Winona State student body who would utilize this service if we had it on campus, how would you utilize, what is the current situation of your financial needs, your security or insecurity with regards to food,” Noelke said. “What we got was up to 40 percent of our population of students have experienced food insecurity in the last month.”

Kate Noelke, director of integrated wellness at Winona State University, oversees the Warrior Cupboard student food shelf.

After the survey, Noelke, Zeiher and other faculty and staff members started campaigning for an on-campus food shelf.

Grant money was given by the WSU Foundation to create a space on campus for the Warrior Cupboard and with the help of the Vice President of Student Life and Development, Denise McDowell.

Noelke said it is important to note the Warrior Cupboard is only meant to “fill in the gaps” for students who are hungry. She said, however, she can help students who use the cupboard access services within the Winona community if they are in need of additional support.

The Warrior Cupboard’s primary partner outside the university is Winona Volunteer Services.

“We worked with Sandra Burke, who is the executive director at Winona Volunteer Services, to come up with the strategic plan and to identify the need and make sure that we still have that permanent connection for students who are coming and needing food here to get to Winona Volunteer Services if their needs are more severe than what the Warrior Cupboard can do,” Noelke said.

Noelke said Winona Volunteer Services is not the only resource that helps keep the Warrior Cupboard at Winona State.

She said through a social media, grassroots-style fundraiser close to $1,000 was raised and split between the Warrior Cupboard and Winona State’s on-campus garden, SEED Garden.

Noelke added Winona State students, faculty and staff, have contributed money and food to the shelf.

“We also have individual student clubs and organizations that will go and do a tabling event and say, ‘We’re collecting donations for the Warrior Cupboard.’ We might get $5 or we might get $50, but quite frankly, every dollar counts,” Noelke said.

Creators of the Warrior Cupboard have also worked with the WSU Foundation, so faculty and staff can contribute a percentage of their paycheck to the food shelf.

“There are several faculty emeritus and some staff and faculty on campus now that donate their actual earned income to this service every two weeks, which is pretty awesome,” Noelke said.

As of this month, Noelke added she is now able to purchase food for the Warrior Cupboard at a discounted price through Winona Volunteer Services. She said the WSU Foundation’s non-profit status helped make this possible for the Cupboard.

Noelke emphasized the Warrior Cupboard is not designed to provide students three meals a day, week after week. The goal is to “fill in the gaps” for hungry students and connect them with off-campus resources if they need further help.

The Warrior Cupboard still has some minor issues to work out, according to Noelke. She said she is certain the Cupboard’s team will figure these things out.

“We’re still getting our hands around what the actual need is because it may be that we continue as we have been,” Noelke said.

She said a small number of Winona State’s nearly 8,000 students use the service.

“Right now, we have 80 students who have access to this space,” Noelke said. “It may be within a year we have 1,000 students that need access to this space and then our fundraising efforts will have to reflect sort of how we support the amount of students that are taking advantage of the actual service.”

Noelke said despite having a few things to work out with the Warrior Cupboard, she is excited to watch it continue to grow.

“We have distributed 3,500 pounds of food and have donated, I think, close to $2,000 and this is individual donations,” Noelke said. “It’s been incredibly humbling, I think, to see this thing get up and running.”