Tag Archives: Winona

Survival of the fittest: WSU students uphold clubs

by Allison Mueller and Elizabeth Pulanco

Eager students, colorful posters and free treats are at the forefront of every Winona State University club fair. These attractions, along with inviting games and cute animals, often lure students to tables — a tactic clubs use every year.

At a club fair, group members are present and strive to attract new recruits for two reasons: it is mandatory and necessary to avoid termination.

Winona State lists specific requirements for creating and maintaining official club or organization status. This includes having at least 10 student members, an updated roster and constitution, and participation in the fall club fair.

Joe Reed, Winona State’s Student Union director said the first and most important step in creating a club is the Student Senate approved constitution, which is often resubmitted if changes need to be made. This constitution must include at least one purpose of the club and membership, meeting and funding requirements.

“The key element is to have the constitution approved by Student Senate,” Reed said. “If you are recognized by Student Senate, you’re a club. This is usually the first step when creating the club.”

Reed has been working with student clubs and organizations at Winona State since 1989. During his time at the university, the number of clubs has increased from 85 to 222. Reed said growing numbers could be attributed to interest in more athletic and academic based clubs.

Both Reed and Tracy Rahim, associate director of Student Activities & Leadership, work closely with clubs and organizations. At the beginning of the academic year, they have to educate new club leaders.

“We have a lot of the same issues every year because we have to reinvent the wheel. You have new officers and there is a lot to learn. It keeps evolving and we are here to keep it going,” Reed said. “Tracy keeps everyone in check.”

With 222 clubs in Winona State’s directory, the Alliance of Student Organizations oversees all these organizations and removes inactive clubs from the list. According to ASO Director Megan Grochowski, nearly 30 clubs have been removed from the directory since she assumed her student position in fall 2016. She said she receives two or three requests a week for the creation of new clubs.

According to Reed, the number of clubs on Winona State’s campus has grown from 85 to 222 in 28 years.
According to Reed, the number of clubs on Winona State’s campus has grown from 85 to 222 in 28 years.

Reed said the best way to maintain a club after its creation is to continue recruiting members, which is why club fairs are hosted several times a year.

Continue reading Survival of the fittest: WSU students uphold clubs

Fighting together: Winona couple treats cancer diagnoses together

“He paid the ultimate price,” Wind said. “He saved my life.”

By Samantha Stetzer

Kelly Wind was sitting in the imaging lab area of Winona Health in late 2014, when she was told there was early cancer forming in her breast.

Her husband of almost 25 years, Kenny Wind, had been diagnosed with stage four-lung cancer months earlier. His prognosis was bleak, Kelly said, but he was fighting, despite the low chances for survival.

She said his diagnosis had inspired her to get a routine mammogram. That mammogram led a radiologist to find something suspicious on her scans. After tests and ultrasounds, she officially had a cancer diagnosis.

With her disease identified, Kelly said the fear and weight of the word cancer was setting in, but a voice cut through her doubt.

“Hey, you are not going to die from this, do you hear me,” a nurse named Heather said, Kelly recalled.

Thus began a year and a half relationship between Kelly and her cancer care team at Winona Health.

Kelly Wind plays with her dog, Asher, and cat, Mittens, in her home in Winona. Kelly was diagnosed with early breast cancer in winter 2014, after her husband’s diagnosis of stage-four lung cancer.

Between Winona Health in Winona, Minnesota, and Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Kelly said she and her husband could choose the types of cancer treatments they preferred, and depending on their choices, they met with a series of providers and caregivers who helped the disease.


The Commission on Cancer accredits both of these hospitals as cancer centers, according to each of the organizations. Gundersen Health System is also accredited by the American College of Radiology.

Kelly said she believes the care she received at Winona Health was just right for her. She made relationships, partnerships and friendships with everyone who cared for her. She said she felt the staff was personable.

“My journey was just amazing,” Kelly said.

She created bonds with the receptionist, the nurses and her surgeons, as she went through a double mastectomy, meaning both of her breast tissues were removed. Later, eventually replaced them with new breasts, making the recovery process from cancer last a year and a half.

A double mastectomy was just one option Kelly said she had. According to Sandy Gruzynski, Winona Health’s patient navigator, while Winona Health cannot offer chemotherapy or radiation treatments right now, their partnerships with the Mayo Clinic Network, headquartered in Rochester, Minnesota, and Gundersen can help patients find the treatment that best fits how they wish to fight the disease.

When the word cancer is spoken as a diagnosis to a patient, Gruzynski is the first person a provider calls. Kelly said she remembers working with Gruzynski to find the best treatment for her disease, describing her as a “warrior” patients.


Gruzynski said she lists options for patients, such as treatments or goals for finishing out the rest of their illness is terminal.

For patients with breast cancer such as Kelly, there are many treatments options because the disease has been heavily researched, Gruzynski said.

Within treatments, such as chemotherapy, Gundersen Health System Medical Oncologist Dr. Kurt Oettel said there can be different aspects to each therapy, which each patient has to consider when choosing a plan for treatment.

“Chemotherapy is like saying ‘I drive a car’,” Oettel said. Simply stating this fact about a vehicle does not give the full story as to what kind of car a person drives, much like how having a patient choosing a chemotherapy track is not uniform for all cancer patients.

Chemotherapy is one example of the progress and research done about cancer treatments that has made cancer research a rapidly growing field, Oettel said.

At conferences, presentations frequently highlight new techniques and treatments for patients, Oettel added, highlighting how this changes the field of cancer dramatically over short periods of time.

“It’s a fast-changing field,” Oettel said. “What’s presented at that meeting… the standard of care just changed over night.”

Oettel said he has had patients whose treatment plans changed within two months, due to advancements in care.

“Now patients live much longer,” Oettel said.

When Kelly was given her options to fight the cancer, she said she was given multiple options, including a lumpectomy, where just the cancerous mass in the breast is removed. There was also chemotherapy, where the disease could be attacked without surgery.

Kelly said she feared the cancer could appear again, and she said she was ready to say goodbye to her breasts, especially if it meant she would have a better chance of surviving.

She told the care team at Winona Health she was “done with them.”

“Take it. I’m done,” Kelly recalled saying with a laugh.

Kelly said her treatment choice was easy: it gave her the best chance to live. Her mastectomy was the only way she said she could ensure she could be there for her four kids and five grandchildren, especially with her husband’s failing health.

She was not going to let them lose another parent in such a short amount of time, Kelly said.

Her kids had just accepted the fact their father was going to die, Kelly added, but her eldest daughter was struggling with the possibility that her mom could die too. As tears welled in her daughter’s eyes, Kelly recalled how she took the advice of the nurse in imaging at Winona Health.

“I told her I was going to beat this, Kelly said.

While Kelly was fighting at Winona Health, her husband was being treated in La Crosse, Wisconsin, at Gundersen Health System with weekly treatments. Kelly said she had to continue her work at Riverstar Inc., where she unloads boxes, even if it meant missing some of his appointments, so she could pay the bills.

At Gundersen, Kelly said Kenny’s experience was more rigid, adding she saw how he was more of a number than a person.

That form of treatment was just right for Kenny, Kelly said. He appreciated the atmosphere, she added, especially in a place where providers have to care for a large variety of cancers and people.

“They weed out so many people… an entire floor of chemo,” Kelly said. “It was more comfortable for him.”

According to Oettel, the reason Kenny and Kelly might have felt like his treatment was differed from Winona Health’s is because Gundersen Health System is comprised of a large network of cancer providers all working to provide care to one patient through many options available at the hospital, such as chemotherapy and radiation.

Oettel explained how, unlike the process of treating a condition like heart disease, where one specialist is needed, the process a patient goes through when they are diagnosed with cancer involves several specialists helping each patient with certain steps in their cancer treatment process. Oettel said he is typically the doctor patients see after they have surgery to decide what steps are next, but there are other doctors and providers, such as the surgeons or radiologists, who have already been providing care to patients.

Since Gundersen has the capability to treat cancer through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, Oettel said there are many caregivers and providers available to patients.

He added insurance availability is one of the main reasons patients make the decisions they do regarding the care they receive. Depending on their insurance, a patient can be limited with their choices for treatment and where they choose to be treated, Oettel explained.

At Winona Health, Gruzynski said she helps guide patients through their insurance process. She often helps decipher jargon within patients’ policies to help them decide which course of action to take and where to take it.

“Right now, it’s really an insurance-driven world,” Oettel said, adding doctors and caregivers should effectively explain to a patient the options at a facility based around a patient’s insurance.

With the constantly changing future of provider care, Oettel said he does not necessarily believe in the “holy grail cure” for all cancers but can foresee a time when cancer becomes a chronic illness like HIV or diabetes.

He added being able to utilize new treatments and options for patients to get into remission can be a great feeling for someone like him who spends his career trying to heal everyone he sees.

“That’s very rewarding to say ‘you no longer need to see me,’” Oettel said.

In spite of advancements in treatments and technologies, Oettel said he has to anticipate he will not cure 50 percent of his patients. He added working with dying patients can be a worthwhile part of his job.

A photo of Kelly Wind and her husband Kenny Wind dancing on their wedding night is held by Kelly. Kenny died from stage-four lung cancer in 2015. A few months after Kenny’s diagnosis, Kelly was diagnosed with early breast cancer. The couple fought their cancer together at separate medical institutions.

For Kenny, remission never came. He died in the spring of 2015, just before he and his wife would celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, according Kelly. In the summer of 2016, Kelly said she was officially done fighting her cancer.

After one and a half years of and with a drug prescription to help reduce her risk of getting the disease again, Kelly said there is now 98 percent chance her cancer will never come back. She said she uses her husband’s story and how it motivated her to get a check up as a constant reminder to her friends and family, often reminding the women in her life to get mammograms.

Looking back at where she was that winter day in 2014, Kelly said she credits her husband for making sure their children still have a parent today.

“He paid the ultimate price,” Wind said. “He saved my life.”

Local antique shop sells treasures, shares memories

“When I first started, I was totally optimistic and thought everybody was going to love my stuff,” Hunt said. “After a few months… that wasn’t going to happen.”

by Allison Mueller

The red brick building on the corner of Main and Third Street is one of many old structures in Winona’s historical downtown. What makes this space unique is what waits to be discovered downstairs.

Along the Main Street side of the building, a steep staircase leads curious customers to a hefty door. A large red and white “A-Z COLLECTABLES” sign hangs above the entry to this hidden shop of treasures.

The creak of the door as it opens and reveals the shop’s unique contents is enough to give any antique collector goose bumps. Narrow pathways are carved throughout the basement space that holds a nine-person maximum occupancy.

To the right, past the collection of old lunchboxes suspended from ceiling pipes and an arrangement of still-packaged toy cars hanging on a wall, shop owner Neil Hunt sits surrounded by mountains of his treasures. He inspects the locks one of his regular customers, Michael, has brought in.

A-Z Collectables’ owner Neil Hunt discusses the locks and other items Michael, a regular customer, has brought into Hunt’s shop to sell to him.
A-Z Collectables’ owner Neil Hunt discusses the locks and other items, Michael, a regular customer, has brought into Hunt’s shop to sell to him.

Hunt has owned A-Z Collectables for more than 23 years, and said he looks to buy things of personal interest to add to his ever-growing collection of antiques and collectables.

“I don’t buy what I don’t like,” Hunt said. “I’ve always liked books and kitchen items, antique lighting, definitely toy cars. The stuff I really don’t want to part with I take home. I have several hundred cars here, but at home I have another couple hundred.”

Originally from Eastern Michigan, work with a natural foods bakery brought Hunt to the co-op in La Crosse two or three times a week to deliver bread. He often stopped at donation stores and yard sales in the area to acquire unique items and then sold them.

Hunt said, “A friend of mine who I was selling my pickings to, she was one of my regular dealers I sold to, kept saying, ‘If I was as old as you are, I’d open my own shop.’ And finally, I did.”

A-Z Collectables opened in 1993 in half of the street-level space where the kate + bella clothing store is. After a few years, Hunt needed more space and moved his business downstairs.

Hunt has owned A-Z Collectables for more than 20 years in downtown Winona.
Hunt has owned A-Z Collectables for more than 20 years in downtown Winona.

“When I first started, I was totally optimistic and thought everybody was going to love my stuff,” Hunt said. “After a few months… that wasn’t going to happen.”

Hunt’s “stuff” encompasses a vast range of items including nonfiction and classic books, hand-painted pottery from the 1950s, old kitchen tools, antique lighting, games and more. There is also an entire corner of the shop dedicated to antique Winona items – bottles, toy mascots from schools, buttons and local calendar plates.

“I can probably make a collection out of just about anything you hand me,” Hunt said. “Whether it’s a collection that would be worth anything, or that anybody else would want, that’s totally up to debate.”

Hunt, who has been retired for a few years, acquired different jobs to support his buying and selling habit. The job he was at the longest was with RGIS Inventory Service, which required him to travel to western Wisconsin and southern Minnesota. He said he could only open his shop several days a week, but the days were not consistent.

Now A-Z Collectables is open weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 12:30 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Hunt said business booms during the summer compared to winter where he “just squeaks by.”

Hunt said during summer he makes a profit. When it comes to antique shops, he said the more the merrier in terms of attracting customers.

Hunt shows Michael around the basement shop, talking about various pieces for sale.
Hunt shows Michael around the basement shop, talking about various pieces for sale.

“It’s not like antique shops compete,” Hunt explained. “We compete when it comes to buying the stuff, but when it comes to selling, you need several to attract collectors looking to buy and think this is a good town to go to and make it worth the visit.”

According to Hunt, his antique shop is one of around three left in town. He said when he started there were six or seven shops in Winona. Much of the collecting market lives online, Hunt said, with sites such as eBay and Etsy. But, in addition to tourists, there are always the regulars who stop by the store.

One of these regulars is Dale Hadler, who has been coming to Hunt’s antique shop for four years. Hadler said he occasionally brings in items to sell, but stops by a few times a week to buy items, specifically antique things made of die-cast and aluminum.

Dale Hadler holds an item of interest he found in Hunt’s antique shop and discusses with the shop owner what year the item might have been made.
Dale Hadler holds an item of interest he found in Hunt’s antique shop and discusses with the shop owner what year the item might have been made.

“Back in 2013 I moved to Winona and I was curious about this place so I came down and checked out this shop,” Hadler said. “He has a nice collection… it’s a little bit of everything.”

Hunt said he is surprised at some items that sell. He explained how years ago he had one of his largest single sales when a couple came to the shop and bought several boxes of Fire King dishes, totaling several hundred dollars. They packaged the vintage glassware and brought it back to the store they were opening in Japan.

He also recalls an instance where a buyer purchased a $10 bucket from him that ended up being an antique lard pail worth $1,000, which Hunt found out once the buyer called him back to share its worth. Hunt had mistaken the pail for an old kid’s sandbox bucket.

“What made mine unique and what threw me off, was that it didn’t say lard on it, but it had a cute little picture of a pig on it,” Hunt said. “That was one of my larger missteps, which will happen with antiques.”

Hunt said he now looks online to research the items he acquires. He will also tell people who bring in items to sell him if they are better off trying to sell their items online.

Hunt sits in the middle of his shop and updates the A-Z Collectables' Facebook page. He said he tries to stay away from online selling and uses the internet to mainly research the age and selling price of items in his shop.
Hunt sits in the middle of his shop and updates the A-Z Collectables’ Facebook page. He said he tries to stay away from online selling and uses the internet to mainly research the age and selling price of items in his shop.

“Some things will sit here for years, but on eBay, if it’s priced right, it’s gone in two weeks,” Hunt said. “I buy things on eBay, but I don’t sell. I need to, just to thin out some of my things.”

The abundance of antiques stacked and piled while strategically organized in A-Z Collectables offers a journey through history – something a buyer would not experience online.

Hunt said, “When you walk in the door here, it doesn’t take you too long and you understand the character, heart and passions of the guy that’s running it.”

Since Hunt’s retirement, he has been able to keep A-Z Collectables open with set hours during the week and on Sunday.
Since Hunt’s retirement, he has been able to keep A-Z Collectables open with set hours during the week and on Sunday.
The first room of A-Z Collectables contains used leather jackets, hand-painted glassware, board games, records, toy cars and more.
The first room of A-Z Collectables contains used leather jackets, hand-painted glassware, board games, records, toy cars and more.
Hunt’s shop holds countless books, ranging from labeled categories that include “western America,” “Minnesota writers,” “Midwest” and “other USA.” Hunt said he focuses on selling mainly nonfiction and classic books.
Hunt’s shop holds countless books, ranging from labeled categories that include “western America,” “Minnesota writers,” “Midwest” and “other USA.” Hunt said he focuses on selling mainly nonfiction and classic books.
A-Z Collectables’ owner Neil Hunt discusses the locks and other items Michael, a regular customer, has brought into Hunt’s shop to sell to him.
A-Z Collectables’ owner Neil Hunt discusses the locks and other items Michael, a regular customer, has brought into Hunt’s shop to sell to him.
Old lunchboxes hang from ceiling pipes in Hunt’s antique shop.
Old lunchboxes hang from ceiling pipes in Hunt’s antique shop.
Piles of old board games await potential players in Hunt’s antique shop.
Piles of old board games await potential players in Hunt’s antique shop.
Hunt holds a particular item for sale he’s “excited about.” He explained how the bottom of the china has printed on it MEMBER UNITED STATES CONGRESS, and he is trying to figure out how much it is worth and if this dishware was only sold to members of congress. He said this print makes the item more unique to him.
Hunt holds a particular item for sale he’s “excited about.” He explained how the bottom of the china has printed on it MEMBER UNITED STATES CONGRESS, and he is trying to figure out how much it is worth and if this dishware was only sold to members of congress. He said this print makes the item more unique to him.
Hunt explains what kind of books he has bought for his shop during its 20-plus years of business.
Hunt explains what kind of books he has bought for his shop during its 20-plus years of business.
Hunt looks through items in the corner of his shop that is made up of strictly Winona memorabilia.
Hunt looks through items in the corner of his shop that is made up of strictly Winona memorabilia.
A wall in Hunt’s shop displays numerous soda bottles. Hunt said, “I wasn’t interested in going the beer route, so I went with soft drinks. It used to be that small towns had their own bottling works, so I started collecting different soda pops.” He also explained how his collection of soda bottles is “more of a museum now,” after the housing collapse in 2008 when people stopped collecting them as much.
A wall in Hunt’s shop displays numerous soda bottles. Hunt said, “I wasn’t interested in going the beer route, so I went with soft drinks. It used to be that small towns had their own bottling works, so I started collecting different soda pops.” He also explained how his collection of soda bottles is “more of a museum now,” after the housing collapse in 2008 when people stopped collecting them as much.

Winona Friendship Center seeks new location, more space

Video of Tai Chi class: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Acy4LfIDf0E&feature=youtu.be

by Sara Tiradossi

As they lifted their arms gently and steadily in different directions, the flowing movements of a group of 30 older adults were coordinated in grace and balance.

Tai Chi is one of the most popular classes offered at the Winona Friendship Center that gathers many on a weekly basis, Malia Fox, director of the Friendship Center said.

With more than a thousand members and a great number of programs, the Friendship Center is suffering from a lack of space. This has caused concern among members and administrators at the center.

To accommodate all of its programs, Fox said the center has expressed the desire to move to a different location.

“The process has been going at a slow pace but I see this happening soon,” Fox said.

Back in the 1960s, the Winona Friendship Center was located at the west and east ends of town, then it moved to the Valley View Tower in 1969 as people were starting to show more interest. In 1980, the center opened on the first floor of the Historic Masonic Theater on Main Street and has been there since.

“We needed a more permanent home,” Fox said.

The committee knew the demographic of the center would continue to grow and could have used the second floor of the building as well. That never occurred, Fox said.

During an Engage Winona event a couple years ago, many people said changes at the center were needed. The event revolved around a series of focus groups that asked participants questions regarding issues and problems the community was facing and ways to improve them.

“Out of all the ideas, one of them was to pull a community center together,” Fox said.

According to Fox, this idea would involve children to senior citizens. One of the main goals of the center, which goes along with a new location, would aim to dismiss ageist attitudes and get past culturally driven myths.

“We wanted to break down the myth that some classes or activities are meant for older adults only,” Fox said. “We need to engage with everyone. We can’t know about each other’s issues if we are not in relationship.”

Winona Friendship Center Program Coordinator Laura Hoberg said a new intergenerational development component would allow people of all ages to take part in programs together.

Sometimes, Hoberg said, people think older adults do not want to be connected with younger people. Members at the center see the new multi-generational center as a great opportunity to engage in meaningful and different kinds of interactions.

“There’s a really positive feeling from the community members,” Hoberg said. “Everybody brings different perspectives and ideas.”

A new location would meet some of the center’s needs in terms of changing the layout of the center that, Fox said, is not conducive for the members. In a recent evaluation, Fox said people felt uncomfortable walking through the main hall to access other rooms in the building. Because of the layout, sounds easily travel down the hallway, which might distract members who are taking a class.

Moreover, Fox is aware the center lacks a parking lot and does not provide an easy access to the main door.

According to Fox, the process of relocation may take years.

Some of the concerns include costs involved, and replacement of the center with another potential structure. The center is seeking to relocate either at the East Recreation Center or become part of a collaborative project between Winona Health and the Winona YMCA.

Despite its need for a bigger structure, the center has continued to grow through the years. Being the only structure in the state of Minnesota that is nationally accredited, Fox said, members in Winona have access to the best programs and facilities.

“People rely on us; they feel welcomed,” Fox said. “Their voices are heard.”

Diane Stevens was one of the members following the soft melody playing in the background as she was trying to maintain a straight posture.

For Stevens, Thai Chi was the answer to her physical health.

Stevens has been involved with the Tai Chi class at the Winona Friendship Center for more than 10 years and is taking an arthritis class as well. She said she had to take some time off when she started having serious health problems.

“I was in the back of the room in a wheel chair and worked my way up to the front,” Stevens said. “I wouldn’t be walking if it wasn’t for Thai Chi.”

Stevens said she believes the center could improve its space, because it is currently offering a big room only, where most of the activities take place, and smaller ones that do not fit large groups of people.

Through the years, member Dorothy Duellman has learned how the center operates and noticed how a bigger space would allow instructors to set up activities in separate rooms, without having to rush from one activity to another, she said. Ideally, she would like to see a swimming pool as well.

Duellman has been a member of the center since 2004 and said she visits the wellness center three times a week to keep herself active and plays cards from time to time.

“A lot of the programs help seniors stay more active and healthy,” Duellman said.

With her experience as a long-term member, Duellman said she appreciates how the center is always looking for new, innovative ways to help older adults and support them.

“It’s really a growing organization,” Duellman said.

One of the programs that has been consistent over time is the health and wellness center, which attracts many for exercise programs from yoga mat to zumba classes. Recently, the center has seen a push towards educational programming, encouraging older adults to be challenged not only physically, but also mentally.

About 100 people walk through the building’s main door every day for many different programs, Fox said. Many members today join the center after being in rehabilitation, and hope to continue their healing process there. Others attend the center for their own physical wellbeing.

Although the members bring to the center their own history and interests, for one to two hours of their day, they have the chance to be reunited in one place and take advantage of the center’s numerous programs.

“It’s a wonderful place,” Duellman said. “What I like about the center is that it focuses on keeping people healthy. It doesn’t separate people; it involves them in the community.”

Member of the Winona Friendship Center lifts her arms at a Tai Chi class Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Members of the Winona Friendship Center participated at a Tai Chi class Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Members of the Winona Friendship Center participated at a Tai Chi class Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Member of the Winona Friendship Center lifts his arms at a Tai Chi class Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Members of the Winona Friendship Center participated at a Tai Chi class Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Creating discussions: Winona County promotes substance abuse prevention

by Samantha Stetzer

Jenna McMillan believes her life would have been different if someone would have just talked to her.

McMillan grew up in Winona, Minnesota, with what she called “a good family.” Her mother was a nurse, her father was involved in real estate and she had a stepfather who was an attorney.

She graduated from high school and eventually attended Winona State University where she made the dean’s list and graduated with a degree in marketing, playing to her business strengths.

When McMillan was 14 years old, she started drinking and doing drugs. When she was 15, she ran away and was arrested. She was sent to a halfway house where she spent the summer between junior high and high school.

The next year she said she found some better friends in school, but continued to abuse substances. When she graduated high school, she was introduced to methamphetamine, and throughout college became a casual dealer—an unfortunate use for that business-oriented mind, McMillan said.

Soon, she was more than a casual dealer. She became addicted to the lifestyle that fueled her drug addiction until her home was raided and she was arrested at 28 years old for selling meth.

If convicted, McMillan could have faced up to seven years in prison.

Instead, she was given the opportunity to face her addiction, work in the community and only had to go to jail for a year. She has been sober now for seven years and works with chemical dependency in the Minnesota Teen and Adult Challenge program, engaging with teens about substance abuse and the issues it can cause.

McMillan said if people had talked to her about drug use before she started becoming a heavy user or even took her first sip of alcohol, most of her life would be different. Discussing addiction when she was growing up was a hush-hush topic.

Now 42 years old, McMillan said she has seen the positives of initiatives that promote prevention in Winona County. Even though she said she would like to see more prevention efforts, she believes those standing up against addiction have been fighting for a worthwhile cause.

Responding to the need together 

Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman said she does not believe in reinventing the wheel. She believes in using the whole wheel.

Since being elected as the county’s first female county attorney, Sonneman has made it a mission to implement what she calls “smart justice.”

“I’m not a lock-em-up kind of prosecutor,” Sonneman said. “There’s no reason to lock somebody up that has a mental illness or who has a drug problem that is not committing crimes of such a serious nature that they can’t be helped.”

According to Sonneman, a big part of prevention is targeting children in the area who are the most susceptible to mental health and substance abuse based on the adverse childhood experiences (ACE), such as a parent using drugs or a history of abuse in their home. According to Sonneman, the more ACEs a child has, the more likely they are to use drugs and alcohol.

A 2016 Minnesota Student Health Survey of a fifth, eighth, ninth and 11th grade students in Winona County, found that as the number of ACEs a child experiences grows, so does their likelihood to use substances, with a slight dip between one ACE and two ACEs before continuing to rise again.

According to the survey, in Winona County 36 percent of children have experienced at least one ACE in their lifetime.

Furthermore, the study found alcohol was the drug of choice for approximately three out of 10 Winona County students within the 30 days before the survey. The average of alcohol use in Winona County was reported to be almost six percent higher than the state average. Usage numbers for tobacco and marijuana were both one to two percent higher in Winona than the state average.

Through the Winona County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, a group of justice experts in the Winona area who review and advocate for justice reform and policy, and her office, Sonneman said she tries to partner with area coalitions and organizations to provide what she views as fair justice for both sides of the legal system. By working together, she said she believes a wider net of prevention and justice reform can be cast in Winona County.

“Because we can do it on a collaborative basis, why reinvent the wheel? Or duplicate efforts,” Sonneman said. “So we’re planting seeds with the prevention early on.”

For Sonneman, the work begins at the local schools.

Sonneman said her office and the county court system host Law Day for local sixth grade students in Winona County, making them active participants as judge, jury, attorney and prosecutor for a pretend case involving a certain theme, such as theft or prescription drug use. The students follow the criminal justice system from beginning to end, in what Sonneman called a “scared straight but better” system.

The County Attorney’s Office also works with Winona State University for its partners in prevention program, which aims to educate college students about substance abuse on college campuses, according to Sonneman.

A large part of prevention, Sonneman said, is working to help treat mental illness and to prevent or help those who might self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

The county was recently awarded a grant to help treat mental illness at the jails more efficiently, which can significantly help halt the “rotating door” of previously convicted criminals in the justice system, Sonneman said.

When an addict is receiving the help they need for their co-occuring addiction and mental illness, Sonneman said the county could prevent future issues and crimes from happening.

The idea has caught on at the local schools, according Mark Anderson, principal at Winona Senior High School. Sonneman and Anderson are both board members at Winona County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention, a drug and alcohol prevention and treatment coalition under the Winona County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

According to Anderson, at the high school level, most of the prevention against drugs and alcohol is not an outright campaign against abusing the substances. Instead, it is done through screening for mental health issues.

Through the screenings, Anderson said school professionals can determine which students need help and how parents and those students can seek resources to help the student find constructive ways of monitoring and managing their mental illness for academic and personal success.

From Anderson’s perspective, he said he believes the school should help a student with their mental health diagnosis and proactive ways to manage it in order to help the student engage more in their educate and creating a more productive life for themselves.

Anderson said the school district requires students to take health classes in seventh, eighth and 11th grades that cover topics like alcohol and drug abuse, but mental health is discussed starting as early as fifth grade.

Grade school students in the district used to participate in Drug Abuse Resistance Education, hosted by the Winona County Sheriff’s Department, according to Winona County ASAP Program Coordinator Phillip Huerta. Since the program has proven to be less effective than hoped, most school districts in the area have dropped the program. Lewiston-Altura Public School District is the only district in Winona County to still host the program.

While the focus of prevention at the high school level in Winona lately has been on mental health and what Sonneman and Anderson agree can be the root of addiction, students are also exposed to the consequences of substance abuse through programs like a mock crash.

Partnering with Winona County ASAP, the mock crash uses student actors to play the part of you people who drink and drive and eventually kill a friend due to substance abuse.

Both Winona County ASAP and the high school are working to bring the programming back to the high school this spring, in time for prom, according to Anderson. They hope they can add a personal story of loss to the crash program to really impact students.

Forced to be an advocate

For the city of Lewiston, Minnesota, it took a young man to lose his life for prevention to become an important focus for its residents, according to Winona County ASAP Program Coordinator Phillip Huerta.

Jonathan Mraz was a high school student in Lewiston who had hopes of someday becoming a teacher or a nurse, according to his mom, Dede Mraz. He was friends with most people, realizing when his classmates needed a friend.

His life was cut short by a train when he was stumbling home drunk and high after a night of uncharacteristic partying, his mother said—a party where another parent encouraged and supplied the alcohol for the students.

The community of Lewiston rallied around the Mraz family and Jonathan’s story,

Huerta said. For three to five years after his death, Jonathan was a reminder of the problems that can stem from using drugs or alcohol, and his mother still makes sure people do not forget it by speaking about her experience, Huerta said.

Huerta and Anderson both said they hope Dede Mraz will help the coalition with their mock crash this spring, to help bring a face to the tragedy of teen drinking.

“They’ll see tears. They’ll see the pain that the mother still carries to this day about it,” Anderson said. “And they’ll hear how emotional it is and how devastating it is for somebody to lose somebody because of something like that.”

The Lewiston community felt satisified with their efforts, Huerta said, since there were no tragedies due to substance abuse happening since Jonathan’s death. According to Huerta, the community’s prevention efforts tapered off after a couple years following Jonathan’s death, but Dede Mraz is still active in reminding students and their families to not support drinking and the use of drugs through the “Parents who Host, Lose the Most” campaign.

According to Huerta, students helped the coalition with this campaign by bombarding liquor stores and their bottles with stickers for the parents who host campaign, in what Huerta calls “sticker shock.” The students “shocked” the community with about 1,400 stickers, Huerta said.

It was a small gesture, Huerta said, but it was one he said that could change minds and impact the community through support.

“There are so many good ideas that are brought to the table, but our teams right now, even with a handful to a dozen people, it’s hard to do so much,” Huerta said.

Fighting with little funding

Huerta has seen a little money go a long way.

As program coordinator of Winona County ASAP, Huerta said even with only roughly $100,000 for all the prevention efforts the coalition is hoping to fund, it cannot provide all the programs the coalition would hope to bring to the community.

Huerta said he has believed in the strength of the people in the community to get the job done since the coalition became the forefront of drug prevention efforts in Winona County.

For the last two years, the coalition has been funded by a federal grant. The first year the coalition was awarded $117,000, but as the years on their five-year grant pass, the money they receive every year decreases. The last year of funding will be just over $102,000.

In 2016, the coalition was given just over $104,000 for their prevention efforts. According to civic and volunteer chair on the Winona County ASAP board of directors Beth Moe, the coalition cannot spend that money on providing the programming, but rather it has to be used to pull everything together, such as fliers or food for the event.

“The things we do don’t cost a lot, but they do cost something,” Moe said.

Moe said she fears what will happen to their funding now that a new presidential administration has taken over at the federal level.

With the funding they have now, Huerta said prevention can still reach a high number of students to be beneficial.

“Something that I want to remember throughout this whole process is that we did a lot with little money before,” Huerta said. “It’s doesn’t take a lot to do a lot, especially when you have people in the community that really care and want to send a good positive message.”

The main focus for that positive message within the coalition was initially on targeting alcohol and prescription pill usage by students in middle and high school.

Since alcohol has been heavily studied, Huerta said, prevention efforts against its use are the most accessible and effective.

The coalition is now shifting its focus to marijuana, specifically focusing on the Garvin Heights location, which has been identified by students as a hotspot for the drug, Huerta said.

“For marijuana, we need to understand it a little better in Winona because it’s a new topic for a lot of communities,” Hureta said. “We need to learn what does marijuana look like more specifically in our area and how can we address it, because, again, there’s also not a lot of evidence-based strategies out there.”

The coalition also had support from local and county governments in terms of creating policies to keep synthetic drugs like “turbo” off the streets in a more effective manor, Huerta said, part of the work Sonneman did after being first elected.

Better, but still a ways to go

For addicts like McMillan and Max Ruff, sharing their story is part of giving back to the community they were arrested for taking so much from, according to Ruff.

For Ruff, his addiction story begins at 12 years old when he first began taking Adderall and drinking alcohol. It ended on Sept. 27, 2014, when he was found passed out in a puddle of water in the woods near Kellogg, Minnesota, borderline hypothermia setting in and some meth in his cheek after a high speed chase that began in Winona.

Through the Winona County Drug Court, a program that uses intensive methods of treatment for addicts to help them obtain educational and workforce goals, and Narcotics Anonymous, Ruff is now 29 months sober and shares his story whenever he can.

Ruff talks to the community through meetings, forums and at appearances at local schools, using a lesson he has learned while in Narcotics Anonymous.

“You can only keep what you have by giving it away,” Ruff said.

While at a recent speaking event at the Winona Area Learning Center, Ruff said he had a student in tears while they were discussing the impacts of racism on this student. Ruff said he reminded the student to not give the racism power, because when he gave power to his addiction, he lost.

McMillan said she opens up a dialogue with local teenagers she sees at the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge and said she volunteers for Winona County ASAP’s board of directors.

McMillan said she would like to see more happen involving recovering addicts and connecting them to students who are on the boarder of isolation and substance abuse. She said she believes if someone had taken the time to talk about it with her, she might not have experienced what she did.

Both recovering addicts said they believe conversations about substance abuse should never stop, no matter what kinds of prevention efforts are used. With the stigma surrounding abuse starting to fade, McMillan said she believes more people feel comfortable opening up for help before large issues occur.

As long as prevention staves off the raid of a 28-year-old meth dealer’s house or prevents hypothermia for a 116-pound man over some meth in his cheek, both recovering addicts agree the solution is beneficial.

Winona State sidewalks pave way to campus beauty

by Allison Mueller

When Darrell Krueger began his presidency at Winona State University in 1989, he had big plans for the campus – plans that earned him the title of “absolutely crazy.”

The vice president of university advancement at the time, Gary Evans, said he and Krueger would often walk around campus, speaking to people and looking at the grounds. During the early 1990s, the streets bordering the university ran through the campus.

“I remember he and I were making that walk one day when he stopped and said to me, ‘We need to close all these streets,’” Evans said. “I remember saying specifically to Darrell, ‘You’re absolutely crazy… the city of Winona will never allow that to happen.’”

Krueger said he simply saw the need for the campus to match its surroundings.

“The river and bluffs are so beautiful, yet the campus had streets all the way through it,” he said.

Evans said once Krueger developed what campus would look like without streets, resources were needed to make it happen. After people began to support Krueger’s vision, Winona State went to the state university board for an allocation, and it was approved.

Since then, campus beautification at Winona State has been of high importance to faculty, staff and students.

While Krueger took the initiative to change the campus, he said when the first street was transformed into a wide sidewalk, “People started to see other possibilities.”

Over the next few years, donations were received from alumni, community members, faculty and staff to further beautify the campus. Krueger said some of the most well-known and enjoyed elements on campus were donations: the benches, gardens near the Performing Arts Center and Gildemeister Hall, Lauren’s Pond, gazebo and many trees.

After Krueger retired as Winona State’s president in 2005, Evans, who left Winona State in 1998, said the campus fell into “pretty serious neglect.” Eight years later, Evans returned for a three-year stint as interim vice president and heard the current president, Scott Olson, discuss the beauty of the campus in a university meeting.

“It was no question – the campus was, and is, beautiful,” Evans said. “The fact also remained that it was a pale resemblance of its former self.”

Olson made sure a budget was available for the maintenance department to transform the campus back into its previous state and maintain its beauty.

Evans explained upholding the image of Winona State to future Warriors as an “extremely important component” to future enrollment.

“It’s been proven over and over again that prospective students that come to look at Winona State are stunned by the beauty of campus,” Evans said. “That, combined with the beauty of the community, is responsible for recruiting a great deal of students to the university.”

As Olson began to place emphasis on the appearance of the campus, Jim Reynolds, a now-retired Winona State sociology professor, was placed as co-chair of the WSU Landscape Arboretum Committee.

Until the early 1990s, roads cut through Winona State's campus. Wide sidewalks now replace the roads as part of the university's efforts to beautify campus.
Until the early 1990s, roads cut through Winona State’s campus. Wide sidewalks now replace the roads as part of the university’s efforts to beautify campus.

According to Reynolds, the Arboretum is concerned with campus beautification as well as developing the campus to be representative of the diverse southeastern Minnesota biome.

The Arboretum’s goal is to promote this unique landscape on Winona State grounds, create opportunities for the campus to be used as a living classroom and laboratory, continue to develop the native species on campus and model ethical use of land and practices.

Reynolds said a big accomplishment for the committee was appointing an Arboretum director and landscape architect, Lisa Pearson, who has a “wealth of experience.”

At the start of January 2017, Reynolds passed his committee chair position to Pearson and Allison Quam, a Winona State faculty member. These women now manage a staff that includes a senior groundskeeper and horticulturist, turf and irrigation specialist, certified arborist, and student landscape workers.

Evans recalled a Winona State maintenance employee (Bill Meyer, a now-retired groundskeeper) telling Krueger, shortly after the street transformation, that he thought Winona State was close to having every tree native to Minnesota on the campus grounds. This thought turned into another campus goal for Winona State.

As the number of native trees grew over the years, a complete tree inventory has recently been done of the campus. The inventory reveals there are more than 1,500 trees on Winona State’s campus comprised of 143 species. Reynolds said it is important to maintain diversity in the university’s tree stock.

“We don’t want to develop a monoculture of one type of tree,” he said. “That’s not healthy.”

Two years ago, a rapid restoration of the entire university landscape was conducted. Reynolds said the majority of the funding for these significant expenditures came from a settlement with the DuPont Corporation.

Prior to the restoration, Winona State had used lawn fertilizer from DuPont that was mistakenly toxic to trees. Reynolds said Winona State lost around 100 trees due to the use of this fertilizer, and Winona State received a sizable settlement from the corporation in the nationwide lawsuit. The Arboretum used the settlement for the restoration, which involved hiring a Rochester firm to assess and prune the trees across campus.

Reynolds said the rapid restoration was “such a mammoth undertaking that our staff just wouldn’t have had the time to do. It involved a couple dozen people from firm devoting an intensive amount of time.”

The time and effort the university’s Landscape Arboretum has put into planting and maintaining the trees on campus, combined with involvement in Arbor Day activities, earned Winona State recognition as a Tree Campus USA the past three years.

In an effort to educate the public and its students about the trees on campus, the Arboretum sponsors tree tours in the summer and fall months. Many of the trees on university grounds display a label with its respective popular name, scientific name and a QR code to scan and give smartphone users more information and photos about the species of tree.

While strides have been made in beautifying Winona State’s campus, Reynolds explained the Arboretum is a long-term project that will continually evolve. This includes using an organic approach to maintaining the university’s landscape, transitioning away from commercial flowers to more native plants of southeastern Minnesota and developing a river landscape feature in the central part of the main campus.

Reynolds said these changes would enhance students’ learning in the landscape as an outdoor classroom and appeal to the public.

“We want to see Winona State’s campus become a destination point for travelers passing through the area,” Reynolds said.

Today, as tourists, community members, students, staff and faculty walk the sidewalks on campus to admire the bio-diversity and beauty, Evans emphasized the importance of Krueger’s definitive words during their stroll on campus in 1989.

Evans said there is no question that removing the roads was “the first critical step in beautifying the campus.”

While Krueger may have started the campus beautification initiative, he said it has taken “a whole community to make the Winona State campus as beautiful as it is now.”

Krueger said, “I’m very thankful to have been able to serve and have the support we had during those times from the city, state, faculty and staff, and the students. The students led a lot of these changes.”

Reynolds said the Landscape Arboretum Committee would like to see more student-engagement regarding projects related to their academic programs. He suggested there needs to be a new culture and attitude on campus about maintaining the landscape.

He said, “Everyone has to pitch in on this. Not just the landscape staff, but students, faculty and staff as well.”

With a tight budget and recent cuts, Evans said this is a threat to the Landscape Arboretum, just as any program.

“I would hate to see any less spent on campus beautification than is currently being spent,” he said. “I certainly hope that campus beautification is never again allowed to become deficient.”

Winona Knitting Mills: The History Behind the Building

Pete Woodworth, former owner of the Winona Knitting Mills, walked into Wanek Hall at the Winona County Historical Society on Wednesday sporting a green cable knit cardigan he made at the Winona Knitting Mills 58 years ago. This was the first sweater Woodworth ever made when he was 12 years old.

“I wore it to work one day and someone told me it was so beautifully made, that I should hang on to it.” Woodworth said, “I didn’t know they meant until I was 70.”

Woodworth began working for the Winona Knitting Mills at the age of 6-years-old where he started packing sweaters into plastic bags to prepare them for shipping. He worked there ever since, only taking a break to join the Navy for five years. Now, at 69-years-old, Woodworth said how grateful he is to be able to still have the Winona Knitting Mills in his family and work in the building.

Woodworth’s grandfather, Walker Woodworth, bought the building in 1943 with his partner, Harry J. Stone. They owned two other locations at the time and were looking for a third location. Jack Temple, the owner of a textile company in Winona, suggested they invest in a building in Winona. The empty building on East Second Street was originally built for a wool mill that never opened.

The mayor of Winona welcomed Walker Woodworth and told him he wouldn’t require Woodworth to pay property taxes for the first year and would only have to pay taxes in 10 percent increments for 10 years as long as they had 200 people working at the mills by the end of 10 years.

To everyone’s surprise, the Winona Knitting Mills had more than 200 employees by the first year.

Pete Woodworth said when the Winona Knitting Mills opened, there were lines of people waiting work at the mills. He said mostly women were employed to run the sewing machines, and noted they enjoyed working there together and most of them were friends.

Proof of the friendships made can still be seen in the break room of the Winona Knitting Mills building. Enlarged photos of women with their arms around each other, laughing and eating ice cream at company picnics can be found hanging on the walls of the original break room. Woodworth said the break room has been left untouched to remind current tenants of the bonds that were created in the building.

At the lecture, to Woodworth’s pleasure, were many employees of the Winona Knitting Mills. The whole audience laughed when Woodworth hauled a huge movie poster up on stage and told the tale of the time he and his wife Joyce were able to attend the New York movie premiere of “The Big Lebowski.” Woodworth said he was proud of the fact that Jeff Bridges chose the Winona-made sweater from a warehouse full of costumes and made the sweater famous.

Woodworth told the audience about how he and his wife went bowling with the cast of the movie and his wife was only able to enter the movie screening because she was wearing the infamous sweater.

In the audience, Howard Rockwell and his wife listened to the history of the old building he used to work in. Rockwell said he loved working at the Winona Knitting Mills and said he got along well with Woodworth and his family.

Rockwell worked at the Winona Knitting Mills in the laundry department from 1955 to 1995. He was in charge of washing all the material before it was sent to the machines.

Rockwell said after 40 years of working at the Winona Knitting Mills, his favorite memory was when they moved the laundry facility from the first floor to the third floor. Rockwell said he was happy to move up to the third floor because he was able to see the river and bluffs from the window’s view.

Rockwell talked with old friends and coworkers he hadn’t seen since he retired in 1995. Woodworth recognized some of his old employees and thanked them for coming to the lecture. After the lecture there were some questions about what went wrong for the Winona Knitting Mills. For some, the closing was unexpected, especially for the employees.

Even though Rockwell had retired in 1995, he was saddened to hear the news of the mills shutting down.

“I was surprised and thankful that I retired at the right time. I was really surprised; they hired a lot of people. I saw a lot of people come and go.” Rockwell said.

Some of the audience members wanted to know what happened to the Winona Knitting Mills and Woodworth explained that they merged with the Hampshire Group Limited, a women’s apparel company.

The Winona Knitting Mills closed a few years after The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was introduced. Woodworth explained said he was advised to sell the company after making visits to Washington D.C. and hearing about the trade agreement.

Woodworth said the hardest moment of his career was when he had to tell his employees the Winona Knitting Mills was closing its doors for good, leaving 180 employees unemployed.

He talked about how he was the type of employer who wanted the best for his employees.

“I’ll try to help you become who you want to be. That’s what kind of company we were. We had a big sign on the office door that said ‘always open’. Those values came from my father and it came from his father.” Woodworth said.

Woodworth’s children now own the building that once was the Winona Knitting Mills. The building is now WKM Properties, a commercial space with 225,000 square feet of leasable space and 10,000 square feet of available space.

This is a cuffing machine that was used to sew cuffs onto sleeves of sweaters such as the one behind the machine. This antique now sits on display on the second floor of WKM properties.

WSU students ‘Take Back the Night’

Students and professors peacefully protested and marched at Winona State University on Thursday, April 23, at the annual “Take Back the Night” event to give victims of sexual assault a safe place to speak out and be supported.

The event started at 6 p.m. in the WSU Student Union with survivor and victim stories of sexual assault. Many participants told their stories. They were given a flower and received hugs from people in the audience afterward.

After the speakers, Women and Gender Studies (WAGS) professor Tamara Berg thanked them for telling their stories.

“I can see the victim and blame culture coming out in the survivor’s stories,” Berg said. “It’s not your fault and by telling your story, you’re starting to change the culture.”

Many of the victims said they were blamed for the assault and many said they felt it was their fault after it happened.

“It’s unbelievable that survivors tell their stories because they are painful to retell,” Berg continued. “It doesn’t matter how much you drank or what you wore, it’s not your fault.”

Winona County Attorney Kevin O’Laughlin attended the event and listened to the stories. He spoke to the victims and thanked them for having the strength to tell their stories.

“We’ve come a long way, we have a long way yet to go,” O’Laughlin said. “As a representative of the criminal justice system, thank you. Please share your stories with law enforcement. If you have the courage and strength to tell your story, you help me hold offenders accountable. Sexual assault is not the victim’s fault.”

The second part of the night was a march through campus, to Broadway, over to Main Street and then back to campus. Winona State students Bobbi Jo Wrona and Emily Homan led the march and chants. As the group passed by the Quad residence hall, students yelled at them. The group marched on.

Social work senior Allison Bergsbaken, FORGE member Michael Krug and Women’s Resource Center director Diana Miller celebrate “Take Back the Night.”
Social work senior Allison Bergsbaken, FORGE member Michael Krug and Women’s Resource Center director Diana Miller celebrate “Take Back the Night.”

The Winona Women’s Resource Center director, Diana Miller, said “Take Back the Night” was organized by the center more than 30 years ago. Miller said the attendance wasn’t very large and it got more attention when Winona State took it over. The average attendance is about 80 to 100 people. Last year’s attendance numbered 200 people, Miller said.

“It’s the most important event for the Women’s Resource Center. It’s an opportunity for everyone who is interested in advocating to get involved,” Miller said. “We honor survivors and have a spirited march at the end. It’s meaningful and emotional for everyone.”

Miller said she loves this event because it raises awareness and gets advocates motivated to get the hard work done.

“We just keep going and advocate on,” Miller said. “Advocating is hard work.”

Many students attended the event because they themselves were survivors of sexual assault.

Child Advocacy Studies minor Ashley Murphy said she attended because she was assaulted and is an advocate.

“It’s important to give people a voice and have a safe place to talk,” Murphy said.

Two students are making a poster with pictures for the event to get more people to come next year.

Social work junior Andrea White said FORGE (Fighting for Our Rights and Gender Equality) funds the event for the food, flowers and the clothesline project outside of Minne Hall.

“I loved the turn-out. I’ve been attending since freshman year, but this is the first year I spoke out,” White said. “You can see the victim blaming culture is really pervasive in our society, there were people yelling from the Quad.”

White said the goal is to get more people to come and create a community where we support each other.

“It’s a unique opportunity and there’s so much more to it when you sit in that space and listen to their story,” White said. “I think next week it will be on everyone’s mind at one point.”

Junior social work major Madeline Mowery said she attended this event her freshman year because it was required for a class. Later, she made WAGS her minor and is the FORGE secretary.

“This year’s event went really well, I think it was the best one so far because I was involved with the planning and appreciated it more,” Mowery said. “I really liked it and made it my minor.”

Community Health junior Leah Peterson said she loves the empowerment the event gives.

“I came because I spoke last year and I have a friend who has been a victim of domestic violence,” Peterson said. “I know a lot of victims and I came to support them.”