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Eighth-graders receive community letters

Eighth-grader Renee Reckner reads a letter from Somerset graduate Holly Boisjolie who teaches high school in Baline, Minn. Reckner said the letter helped her calm down about high school. Each eighth grade student in Somerset was given a letter specifically tailored to their individual future plans on Friday, May 10 during their high school orientation. Reckner's letter gave her advice on her goal of becoming a teacher.1 / 3
Tanner Getschel reads a letter from Somerset resident and packaging engineer PJay Rivard, whose letter told Getschel about Rivard's experiences travelling the world as an engineer. Getschel hopes to become an engineer in the future.2 / 3
Somerset High School staff distributed the letters. Pictured from left are: Sara Kreibich, social studies; Sarah Colling, health education and AODA; Jenna Evenson, school counselor; and Patty Schachtner, who works in the health care office. Photos by Gretta Stark.3 / 3

In this day of computers and emails, receiving a handwritten, personal letter can be a special thing.

Patty Schachtner, Somerset school nurse, helped organize the letter-writing campaign in the schools with Gina Knutson, Carol Jones, Gail Buell and Randy Calleja as a part of the Leadership Trust Initiative, a course sponsored by the New Richmond Area Community Foundation.

The group organized community letters for New Richmond eighth-graders one week before the Somerset eighth-graders received theirs. Schachtner said her group's ties to the Somerset area led the group to bring the letter campaign to Somerset as well.

Schachtner said she hopes receiving a special, personalized letter of encouragement will make the transition from middle school to high school for Somerset's eighth-graders.

"To get a letter from someone who doesn't know you but really cares about your future," Schachtner said, "It's really important for young people to know that we might not see you every day, but all adults want kids to succeed."

All 136 eighth-graders received letters in Somerset, 15 of whom attend St. Anne's Catholic School. The letters were written by community members as well as people outside of the Somerset community, in order to let kids know there are people who care about their futures. The letter-writers were provided information about the students to whom they were writing, so the letters gave the students advice on future careers, or deciding their future careers as well as advice on high school in general.

"It feels like I don't have to worry at all because someone else went through this," said Renee Reckner, Somerset Middle School eighth-grader.

Reckner's letter gave her advice on becoming a teacher.

"In the letter it says teaching is the only profession that makes all other professions possible," Reckner said.

She said she wants to be a teacher because she likes helping people learn. Her letter also offered her some advice for high school.

"It talked about how you can do things that your friends aren't doing and you don't have to be afraid to do what you want to," Reckner said.

Tanner Getschel's letter gave him advice on becoming an engineer.

"He told me about his engineering experience and how cool it was to travel the world," Getschel said. While Getschel doesn't necessarily want to travel the world, he said he would like to be an engineer. He said he would like to invent and to build things.

Getschel said he is looking forward to classes that will provide him hands-on building experience in high school. He said he is a little worried about the size of the high school.

Schachtner said the letters went over very well.

"The kids that read them seemed like they enjoyed them," Schachtner said. "I think we all like to receive something personalized every now and then."

Schachtner said the volunteer group wanted to work with youth mentorship. The group also wanted to include suicide prevention in their project.

"If one eighth-grader in New Richmond or in Somerset that letter and it makes them think something about someone caring about them," Schachtner said, "then we've met our goal."

Schachtner said the group may never know if the letters made a difference, but she hopes they did.

"Every day you just have to really know and think that you made a difference," Schachtner said, "because at the end of the day, that's all there really is."

Schachtner said she hopes to repeat the letter-writing campaign for next year's New Richmond and Somerset eighth-graders.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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