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It's not just business as usual for Dakota Wesleyan University. As DWU staff and faculty prepare to resume classes next week, a growing contingent of students won't roll suitcases into dorm rooms or trudge across a snow-covered campus with books. Instead, they'll log on to DWU's online offerings. Last year, DWU launched its online master's in business administration program, the first graduate program in business for the college, and will kick off a new online degree completion program this spring.
The ring of the red kettle bells is over, but fundraising is not. Sheena Loudner, office manager for Salvation Army in Mitchell, said the local organization didn't make its goal of $35,000 during the annual Salvation Army Red Kettle drive, which ended Christmas Eve. Loudner didn't have exact numbers, but suspected the drive was several thousand dollars short. "Our Christmas goal makes up the majority of our budget," Loudner said.
When a fire truck rolled up to Rick and Valerie Johnson's house on Monday, Valerie had one question. "I hollered to the kids, 'Did someone call 911?' " she said with a laugh. "Then I realized Santa was in the fire truck." There was no fire, and none of her children accidentally dialed 911. Instead, Santa Claus ditched his sleigh Monday for a fire truck when Mitchell Fire/EMS and Avera Queen of Peace Emergency Department employees helped Santa make an early Christmas stop.
TYNDALL -- Three people were injured and one killed in four different car accidents over the weekend, according to authorities. The most severe was early Sunday morning, when Jimmi Rose Van Gerpen, 27, of Avon, died on Sunday in a two-vehicle crash on state Highway 37, 6 miles south of Tyndall. According to a press release from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, Van Gerpen was driving a 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix east on 309th Avenue, approaching the intersection of Highway 37.
Slow down. That's the message Highway Patrol wants to convey as South Dakotans gear up for possibly record-high numbers of travelers this holiday season. It's also just in time for another round of winter weather, following last week's storms that sent people spinning off roads and into ditches across southeastern South Dakota. "Most crashes happen because of excessive speed in inclement weather," said Highway Patrol Trooper John Lord. He referenced Dec.
MARTY -- Trauma from a car accident did not kill a Marty man who was found dead last week, officials reported Monday. Dominic Fischer, 28, was found dead at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 17 in a rural Charles Mix County agricultural field on tribal ground, according to authorities. Yankton Sioux Tribal Police Chief Chris Saunsoci said the vehicle slid off the road before Fischer walked away from it, ruling out trauma from the accident as the cause of death. He said the cause of death is still to be determined, pending full autopsy results, including a toxicology report.
When Alisha Vincent sat down in the United Nations building in New York City, she wondered who had been in that chair before. “There’s probably been a significant number people from around the world that have occupied that seat at one time or another,” she said. “It was inspiring to be there.” Vincent, director of the McGovern Center, joined Dakota Wesleyan University President Amy Novak and DWU student Ariana Arampatzis on Dec. 9 at the U.N., as DWU became one of about 40 universities to sign the Presidents' Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security. Novak was one of six of those universities’ presidents selected to be on a steering committee for Presidents United to Solve Hunger -- PUSH. “It was exciting,” Novak said. “We’re excited to represent that, and certainly excited to represent the faith-based, small private colleges across our country who we think can do a lot of good work toward addressing hunger in their local communities, as well as across the world.” According to information from PUSH, in February, the Hunger Solutions Institute, in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization held a forum. A consensus outcome from that gathering, which drew 70 leaders from 30 universities in Canada, the U.S. and Latin America, was the Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security. Along with signing the commitment, Novak represents one of six members who serve on a steering committee that’s geared at encouraging other universities across the nation and the world to “more intentionally integrate hunger and hunger-related topics into the curriculum, and to help develop an awareness as well as outreach programs and solutions to global hunger.” “That might be in our local communities, that might be in Africa or the developing world,” Novak said. Novak and Vincent signed the commitment this summer after making contacts with people at Auburn University, one of the driving forces behind the initiative. The other members of the steering committee, along with Novak, represent Auburn University, Mississippi State University University of Missouri, Stenden University in the Netherlands and Zamorano University in Honduras. Novak said Dakota Wesleyan joined the effort, in part, because it so closely aligns with efforts its faculty and students already are passionate about, and which mirrors one of the great passions of the late George McGovern. McGovern, for whom the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service on DWU’s campus is named, dedicated much of his life to providing food for people in need. Among his many efforts, he wrote a book on the topic, “The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time,” and served as the first director of Food for Peace, a food aid program. “We became really excited about the idea of having a group of universities make a commitment to really addressing this issue on both a local and global scale,” Novak said. Novak said she sees Dakota Wesleyan’s role as being an inspiration to and model for other small, faith-based institutions to make similar efforts to fight hunger in their communities. “Small institutions can be very powerful instruments of change,” Novak said. Early in her time at the McGovern Center, Vincent said she brought people together to get feedback on what direction the center should take. It became apparent that, to honor the memory of the late Democratic senator, there were two things George McGovern was passionate about: politics, and solving hunger. He and his wife, Eleanor, are both alumni of Dakota Wesleyan. “We are very fortunate to have the legacy already established by George and Eleanor McGovern,” Vincent said. That connection has opened doors that otherwise might remain shut to a small liberal arts university in South Dakota. “I’ve been able to meet some really incredible people who are engaged at the highest level in the battle against hunger,” Vincent said. It’s a legacy that Dakota Wesleyan students have already bought into, she said. The DWU chapter of Universities Fighting World Hunger -- renamed The Third Freedom, after McGovern’s book -- has bloomed from five students a year ago to 25 active members, and even more are showing interest. Arampatzis, a sophomore, is the president of the student organization, and said the issue of feeding hungry people has become a passion of hers. “We have enough food on Earth to feed everyone,” she said, noting there just aren’t the right resources and methods to distribute that food to everyone who needs it. “That just blows my mind.” Visiting the U.N. was not only inspirational, but she hopes that Dakota Wesleyan will be able to “ignite a fire” among other students to get involved in combating world hunger. “Hopefully the next step will be getting students connected,” she said. “Our students are really committed to making the world a better place and their enthusiasm for defeating hunger in our local and global communities is contagious,” Vincent said. “I’m thankful for the chance to work with such an inspiring group of students and community members.” In fact, Novak and Vincent both noted that many of the steps PUSH wants schools to implement are things DWU is already doing. University efforts to combat hunger include UFWH students helping with the Love Feast, canned food drives, Mitchell Food Pantry and the Snack Pack Program. Vincent said this spring, students will work on food policy initiatives with Bread for the World hopes to develop opportunities with Feeding South Dakota. “Our students, really, are the ones who are pushing this forward and saying ‘we want to be part of this,’ ” Novak said. “Really all I’m doing is facilitating their skills and talents.” In addition, the McGovern Center supports a Livestock for Life project that works with local leaders to identify families that qualify for a goat or cow. They raise the animal until it produces then given the first born back to the community for redistribution. The program helps with food and can generate small incomes for families. Globally, students continue to participate in Livestock for Life, and Vincent said she is taking some UFWH students to Uganda in July to do an agriculture workshop for smallholder farmers. The program also has a plot of land in rural Uganda that helps support a school lunch program there. “Our students are no longer the students that are OK with sitting in lecture halls,” Vincent, who is also a faculty member at DWU, said. “We really do have a changing demographic of students who really want to get their hands dirty, so to speak.” Having Novak on the steering committee for the group helps DWU occupy the niche for small, liberal arts universities to join the cause, Novak and Vincent agreed. “I’m very proud to work with President Novak. Dakota Wesleyan has the ability to be the beacon,” Vincent said. “We have the opportunity to really take a leadership role in solving hunger, especially among small, faith-based universities.” All three women referenced the importance of alleviating hunger for people locally, regionally and globally. Vincent and Arampatzis spoke of experiences on mission trips, seeing small children dying of starvation. A rural Chamberlain native, Vincent said she has traveled extensively domestically and internationally, and seeing people dying of hunger is not something you soon forget. “I’ve seen what it looks like when people are starving,” she said. “I’ve never experienced that pain, but I’ve been in a lot of situations and have a lot of close relationships with people who have.” And while PUSH has a global focus, DWU hopes to continue to focus on the local and regional levels. It’s easy to assume it can’t happen here, they said -- but it does. On Tuesday, Novak said the Snack Pack program gave out 387 food packs -- just for Mitchell youth. “I think that’s a pretty significant concern,” Novak said. “When people aren’t hungry, they can live more productive lives.” To continue working toward collective solutions, Dakota Wesleyan will host its first Hunger Summit on April 15 on campus. Vincent said she’s been working with South Dakota State University, Feeding South Dakota, the Midwest Dairy Association and others to focus on solutions for South Dakota. “I’m really excited about that. I’m really hoping we can get people from around the community and state,” Vincent said. “We really believe in collective partnerships.”
Calling all layaway angels. In keeping with the Christmas spirit, anonymous do-gooders have been spreading cheer this holiday season, paying off more than $4,000 worth of layaway items at Kmart and Walmart in Mitchell. "We call them layaway angels," said Jon Kruckenberg, store manager at Mitchell Kmart. It happens almost every year, he said, during the holidays, when the store sees its busiest time of year for layaway purchases. "It just seems to be through the Christmas season, when people try to go that extra mile to help out those that are struggling a little more," he said. Often, the
Principal, or administrator? "I answer to both," Gary Cookson said with a smile, regarding his dual title of administrator and principal at Mitchell Christian School. Having the positions combined is new for Mitchell Christian, but not for Cookson. "I said, 'That's what I'm doing now,' " Cookson said when he was interviewed for the job.