Students join Fillmore County Justice League

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP Fillmore County deputy Tim Rasmussen, DARE officer in the participating districts, tells the students that he has high hopes for them.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP Rushford-Peterson students had front row seats to the Fillmore County DARE presentation at Kingsland High School Wednesday, May 8.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP Fillmore County's sixth graders listen to Sheriff John DeGeorge speak about how he is proud of them for completing their DARE lessons and graduating.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson shares about how he admires the Justice League comic superheroes and that he hopes that the sixth graders realize that they can be superheroes, too, but without a cape.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

“I’m the county attorney, and I deal with a lot of people who make a lot of poor decisions, so I thought this would be a good time to meet you and help you decide to make good decisions through DARE.  I’m also welcoming you to the Fillmore County Justice League – you have become part of Fillmore County’s Justice League because you can make good decisions and become leaders in your communities,” introduced Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson, standing before approximately 150 public school students during the annual Fillmore County Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education (DARE) graduation held at Kingsland in Spring Valley Wednesday, May 15. 

“Your moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas are here, and they’re already leaders who make good decisions.  But who’s this on the screen?  Superman and Wonder Woman!  Who wouldn’t want to be like that?  Superman flies, and Wonder Woman has her lasso.  What’s their best superpower, though?” asked Corson. 

A sharp sixth grader answered, “They are theirselves.”  

Corson agreed, “Because they believe in justice and believe in honor, and they make good decisions.  People who make good decisions aren’t always good-looking, they don’t always fly or have Wonder Woman’s lasso.  They’re people who look like you and me.  

“Now, here’s Superman. What’s he doing? He’s taking off his suit to be Superman. Who is he during the day?” asked Corson.

Another student supplied the answer, “Clark Kent.” 

Corson went on, “My wife was going to make me a cape for today, but I left it home.  You don’t have to wear a cape to be a superhero. What are your challenges and opportunities?  Are you going to make good decisions?  Hopefully you will make good decisions and think about that opportunity, think about your mom and your dad – they make good decisions, and they make sure you’re fed and clothed, your grandma and your grandpa take care of you, and you’re learning in DARE how to do what’s right.  Someday, there will be other kids who are in DARE who look up to you. 

“You are part of the Justice League – each one of you has unique talents, just like Wonder Woman and Superman, and each one of you has unique talents that you can bring to your community.  Another part of the DARE program’s decision-making model is evaluating – you see that you can’t save the world alone, because we’re a community.  You can’t save Fillmore County by yourself because we’re still a community.  But evaluate your decisions, figure out if they were the right ones to make...DARE to be a leader.  Make good decisions, because being a good leader is not just talking all the time.  There are a lot of leaders around here now who lead by example, not by talking the loudest.  They make good decisions – if they see something wrong, they tell somebody about it.  You don’t have to have a superpower or big muscles or X-ray vision.  DARE to intervene – to say ‘That’s not right,’ that drugs are bad, that you care about what happens around you.  Don’t let things you see be roadblocks.  And DARE to be yourself.  I wanted you to hear this because I’ve seen people who make bad decisions, but there are good people around you who care.”

Corson concluded by congratulating the graduates of DARE for being part of the Justice League of Fillmore County. 

“I’ll see you somewhere someday and think, ‘Those are some of the kids I saw at the DARE graduation a few years ago.’  You’ll make good decisions.  Congratulations,” he said.

Earlier in the program, Kingsland Elementary School Principal Scott Klavetter welcomed the students, teachers and parents to Kingsland, commenting on how he stood before a crowd of students representing five different school districts and at least that many small towns – places comprised of people who take notice of what their children are learning and attempt to set good examples and, as a community, be welcoming. 

“I’m looking at how unique it is that five schools are coming together for a DARE graduation,” he said. “This is an example of communities working together to make things like this happen.  It’s our communities reaching beyond city limits, working together.”

Klavetter introduced Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge, who in turn introduced Chief Deputy Lance Boyum – who served as the county’s DARE officer for a decade – and deputy Tim Rasmussen, who took over Boyum’s post. 

DeGeorge spoke about the benefits of DARE, particularly how it affords law enforcement officers a chance to meet students while they are young and make connections in the communities, something that he missed as a child living in Rushford due in part to the DARE program not reaching his classroom. 

“But in the last 29 years, we’ve had more than 5,000 kids go through the DARE program, and when I took office this year, we talked really early on about how important it is to have the DARE program for kids. Tim Rasmussen and Lance Boyum and I talked about that, and your DARE officer, Tim Rasmussen, put together a fall program to add to the spring program so that we’ll be here twice as often, not just to reach another group of kids, but to foster connections with the kids in your schools,” DeGeorge said.

Rasmussen took his turn speaking, and he told about the different lessons that he taught the students, including dealing with stress, peer pressure, making good decisions and more. 

“I asked at the beginning, ‘How do you deal with stress?’ and the majority of them said, ‘I punch my brother or sister.’  Now, they’ve learned to take a walk or get some exercise as other options.  We worked on the basics of confident communication,” Rasmussen said. “As I was teaching, I showed them examples of this.  I started out talking to them in a normal voice, then I went to demanding that they pick up their pencils.  Ninety percent of the kids jumped out of their seats, one kid swore at me, another yelled the name with the initials ‘J.C.’ and another kid fell off his chair and nearly hit the ceiling.” 

The audience got a giggle at that, after which Rasmussen outlined that the rest of the lessons he taught entailed the dangers of vaping – even though vaping isn’t part of the DARE curriculum yet, he chose to add it because preteen students are becoming the majority of starter-smokers. 

“I explained that the vapor they’re inhaling is not vapor, but an aerosol, and we don’t understand what the effects will be, that they’re the guinea pigs and that they could find out when they’re 45 that it was a mistake to try it,” he said. “And bullying…not the last lesson, but the last I’ll talk about today.  There were a lot of tears shed during this lesson, stories shared about unimaginable things that happened to kids who just wanted to be accepted.  So I’m asking you to step up for each other.” 

He showed a slide bearing the name of a girl, Cherish, who died last spring as a result of being bullied, according to her obituary.

“At the same time that I was teaching this lesson, that family was preparing to bury their daughter,” Rasmussen said. “But the DARE decision-making model helps kids assess what choices they should make and the consequences of those choices, to respond and evaluate or review their decisions, to ask if it was a good one.  That’s the DARE decision-making model that can be used in any situation.”

The program also featured the DARE essay contest, for which there was one essay chosen from each school district.  The law enforcement officers commented that choosing an essay from each school had been difficult because of the excellent points made in each student’s work, but that from Fillmore Central, Haley O’Connor’s would receive the award.  Marek Boysen from Kingsland, Laci Sievers from Rushford-Peterson, Dayton Haugen from Lanesboro and Saijal Slafter were also chosen as award winners for their respective schools.    

DeGeorge, Boyum and Rasmussen presented DARE certificates to the students completing the program. 

Rushford-Peterson graduates included Devin Anderson, Quintin Betthauser, Lucas Brand, Jonah Buchanan, Emerson Bunke, Jonah Bunke, Brandon Burkhalter, Vanessa Carruthers, Cadel Carder, Domanick Corcoran, Heiden Dahl, Braden Danielson, Chloe Duffield, Michael Evenson, Lily Forrester, Greggory Gile, Kenna Gudmundson, Mikenna Halvorson, Cade Hanson, Nevaeh Happel, Quinell Harris, Kail Heiden, Ross Heiden, Matthew Hengel, Lindsey Hoiness, Damon Hubbard, Bradley Jannsen, Abigail Johhanson, Caden Johnson, Kiara Johnson, Giselle Kahoun, Brady Keenan, Dylan Kryzer, Carson Laumb, Shelby Lutz, Matthew Maynard, Ryan McNeill, Alaina Meier, Kloey Merchlewitz, Isaac Oian, Haylee Payne, Emma Peck, Hailee Peterson, River Rogers, Karissa Ronnenberg, Larissa Ryan, Macy Rye, Destiny Sanchez, Hunter Sarver, Laci Sievers, Evan Stafford, Ansley Stickler, Julian Sublett, Addison Thompson, Susanna Thompson, Autumn Tofstad, Delaney Vaughn, Andrea Volker, Foster Wilcenski and Sara York.

Fillmore Central students honored during the ceremony included Aiden Arnold, Caleb Barth, Kenny Biel, Audrey Bothun, Ella Dahly, Lynndin Dyreson, Laiten Engen, Savannah Erickson, Ava Frommelt, Skylar Frye, Alex Gulbranson, Tyler Gulbranson, Peter Haugerud, Josh Haugerud, Atlee Hershberger, Soraya Hershberger, Vivienne Hoeltzle, Connor Hovey, Cowan Keim, Greg Kennedy, Anthony Kiehne, Karleigh Kildahl, Sawyer Lange, Brooke Lenz, Nevaeh Ludewig, Annika Mensin, Liliy Miller, Annika Nelson, Carter O’Connor, Haley O’Connor, Audra Otto, Nathan Pfremmer, Hailey Pickett-Hanson, Maddex Rindels, Sienna Rindels, Joey Ristau, Aaliyah root, Ben Ryan, Myleigh Scheevel, Mara Schwarz, Landon Sethre, Brock Sikkink, Brooklyn Simon, Tyson Sprenger, Nora Springer, Chase Strahl, Tyler Suckow, Rhoda Swartzentruber, Jillian Tieskotter, Austen Vrieze, Kayleigh Wangen, Kennidy Wangen, Parker Wangen, Olivia Whalen, Claytin Wingert, Kiley Wingert, Dillon Winslow and Delaney Yoder. 

Lanesboro presented Bailey Erwin, Aedan Flaby, Summer Gordon, Dakota Guenther, Taylor Hanson, Dustin Haug, Dayton Haugen, Emma Highum, Ryan Himle, Grant Horihan, Abbigail LaDoux, Roawan Lieb, Ellie McCabe, William Miller, Lauren Olson, Brynn Pfeffer, Ava Rein, Mihaela Rothen, Kyle Ruen, Cole Sass, Cora Schnebly, Jackson Taylor, Aubri Thomas, Ashlynn Vagts and Holdyn Willford. 

Kingsland shared kudos for Tristen Aarsvold, Angelina Andersen, Brayden Betts, Marek Boysen, Abbigail Dohlman, Bailey Drees, Maxwell Erdman, Madison Funk, Kristy Funk, Clayton Hanson, Olivea Heusinkveld, Ashton Holland, Damion Holland, Samuel Howard, Seth Howard, Gavin Hubka, Nicholas Janssen, Jayda Jefferson, Daizie Johnson, Parker Johnson, Cassie Jones, Alexis Klomps, Hunter Krahn, Gavin Krahn, Sandie Larson, Scott Leduc, Grayce Lipke, Alexavier Lopez, Monica McHan, Vaira Merkel, Cameron Miner, Cody Minshall, Caleeanna Moore, Steven Moore, Blake Oeltjen, Macie Rasmussen, Zachary Reiland, Caden Reiter, Ayden Schleusner, Ira Schmidt, Sadie Schneider, Andrew Schroepfer, Blake Swenson, Felicity Thielen, Nevaeh Volkart, Miranda Weatherly, Emerson Willford, Jordan Williams, Andre Wilson, Hunter Wilson and Carson Wolfgram. 

Mabel-Canton recognized Taylor Donlan, Lydia Douglas, Reese Draper, Slade Eiken, Hope Erickson, Kyler Goad, Lainey Hosting, Kailey Ingvalson, Ava Jacobsen, Chase Kleppe, Tyler Larson, Cameron McKelvey, Sahara Morken, Chloe Murray, Jackson Olson, David (Cy) Raaen, Sarah Schneekloth, Saijal Slafter, Kira Snyder, Rachelle Tollefsrud, Teddy Torgerson, Ava Tweten, Lydia Vatland, Dillon Wangen, Skyler Wangen, Bode Weidemann, Samantha Williams and Isaiah Yoder. 

DeGeorge closed the ceremony by thanking everyone for attending and for supporting the students as they learn what the right thing to do should be.