Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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When 11 volunteers from Five Oaks Community Church landed in Haiti Jan. 9 for a mission trip to assist with the construction of All of God's Children orphanage in Fedja -- it was business as usual. Five Oaks Community Church has been sending its members to help construct the orphanage in the rural community on an ongoing basis since 2005. The volunteers were tasked with finishing construction of the kitchen in the orphanage building and begin planning for vacation bible school for its students. But on Jan.
A parent of a student in Michelle Kiesel's class took it upon herself to get Kiesel named "Elementary Teacher of the Year" by the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce. The mother, who had three of her children in Kiesel's kindergarten class, nominated the Woodbury Elementary teacher for the annual award. Kiesel said the parent who wrote the letter received input from other parents and interviewed past students. "She showed me the letter and I told her that it's really great that she thinks that -- just knowing that is all I need to know," Kiesel said.
Woodbury may be a suburban community, but a bit of urban cultural influence can be found in the halls of one of its high schools. A group of Woodbury High School students recently formed the hip-hop group "Urban Venture." The group, which focuses on dance associated with the musical genre, was formed about a month ago by WHS students Brittnii Hodge and Deslyn Golden as a way for their group of friends to come together and dance to express themselves.
The earthquake in Haiti has touched a lot of people, and a lot of people are reaching out to the Haitians. Several students at East Ridge High School were touched so much by the disaster that they have started a new fundraising group called "Hearts for Haiti." "It seemed like we're really powerless here," said Hearts for Haiti co-founder Shua Bhattacharya. "But, we all realized that since we're so sad about it, we should do something." Bhattacharya started Hearts for Haiti with four other ERHS students -- Erin Yockey, Melanie Rabina, Vincent Bedard and Joaqum Valdes.
How many little boys have superhero bed sheets or pajamas? How many little boys have drawers and closets filled with action fingers and comic books? Probably more than can be counted. Superhero fans had a chance to taste the superhero lifestyle during District 833 Community Education's Superhero Training Camp on Jan. 15 in the Woodbury High School Activities Center. During the event every super boy brought with him his favorite super female sidekick -- mother, grandmother, sister or aunt -- for a day of superhero games and training.
A group of Woodbury High School students have been recognized for their skills and talent in a variety of art areas after receiving 15 Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards. "What this has done for our students is that it has helped them realize that someone else besides us really loves their work," WHS art teacher Karen Seashore said. "It reinforces their chances of being successful in the future." Middle schools and high schools around Minnesota participate in the competition. This year, 1,151 students submitted artwork to be judged.
Editor's Note: The Woodbury Bulletin plans to publish stories on all recent Woodbury Chamber of Commerce award recipients. Jennifer Ridgeman's quiet afternoon quickly comes to a stop around 3 p.m. when all of her sleepy-eyed children wake from their naps. Ridgeman quickly goes into mother mode by putting away their blankets and stuffed animals, changes them if they have an accident and gets them ready for the rest of the day. Ridgeman's children actually are her early preschool students at Primrose School of Woodbury, but she said she considers them her own.
Afton's legal fees associated with the GJ&M lawsuit are starting to pile up, but this may not be the end of the issue. One of developer Gordy Jarvis' attorneys, Daniel J. Cragg said that GJ&M is currently seeking a new trial based on the judge's ruling regarding the damages and jury instruction. During the jury trial, which concluded Dec. 8 at the Washington County Courthouse, Judge Mary Hannon ruled that GJ&M did not present enough sufficient evidence to show that the city was liable for the actions of its employees. Therefore Hannon dismissed all of Jarvis' $6 million in damage claims.
Editor's note: The Woodbury Bulletin plans to follow up with several of the volunteers about their experiences in Haiti. Eleven volunteers from Five Oaks Community Church who were in Haiti on a mission trip to assist with an orphanage project are back home and safe with their families after the 7.0 earthquake hit the country Jan. 12. Three of the volunteers are from Woodbury -- Jeff Schwartz and Mike and Jan Mularoni. One volunteer is from Cottage Grove -- Adan Casas. They returned home Jan. 15. "We were very concerned right from the start," Pastor Henry Williams said.
Gordy and Kathy Jarvis bought a rundown hotel 33 years ago. The electrical work was shot, the plumbing was broken and there were leaks in the roof. But after more than three decades of blood, sweat and tears the Jarvises, who live in Lakeland, have turned the Afton House Inn into the oldest operating hotel in Minnesota and one of the state's top-ranked destinations. For their efforts and the Afton House Inn's impact on the hospitality industry the Jarvises were inducted into the Minnesota Restaurant's Hospitality Hall of Fame Nov. 23 at Jax Café in Minneapolis.