Seven extraordinary volunteers received 2018 John Coskran Volunteer Awards in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 on May 10.
"We thank these exceptional volunteers for the positive difference they make in our schools, programs and across the district," said Superintendent Cindy Amoroso. "Their dedication and support is extraordinary as they volunteer their time and talents to prepare our students to be future ready and to make our community strong."
This is the 17th year of the awards which are named in honor of John Coskran, a long-time advocate for volunteerism who served 34 years at Catholic Charities and retired as associate director in 1993. Mr. Coskran, who also served as a member of the District 191 Board of Education, died in 2014.
Recipients of the 2018 John Coskran Volunteer Award are:
- Jacob Johnson, a student at Nicollet Middle School, who is an active volunteer and also promotes volunteerism among his classmates.
- Olivia Brammer, a senior leader at Burnsville High School who has volunteered in numerous ways.
- Sarah Schulte, a dedicated volunteer at Rahn Elementary School.
- Tom and Deb Shepley, long-time volunteers in athletic programs at Burnsville High School.
- Steve Fiebiger, who led the creation of Foundation 191 in 2005 was involved with it for 13 years.
- Janet Rempher, who (along with her therapy dog, Arthur) supports student learning at Sioux Trail Elementary.
For more information about the award or for information on how you can become a volunteer, go to the district website at www.isd191.org/volunteer.
Photo: Recipients of the 2018 John Coskran Volunteer Award are, from left, Tom and Deb Shepley, Jacob Johnson, Jan Rempher, Steve Fiebiger, Olivia Brammer and Sarah Schulte.
Award Winner Profiles
Jacob Johnson is in 7th grade at Nicollet Middle School and has already shown a commitment to volunteering and has already had an impact.
He serves as president of the school’s ME to WE Club, which is now in its second year of planning and coordinating school-wide volunteer activities to serve others in the local community and around the world.
Jacob not only heads up the club's brainstorming for ideas, but he coordinates all of their efforts and puts in extra time and energy as needed.
Club projects included a challenge to reduce plastic bottle purchases by re-using water bottles throughout November. The club raised $1,200 by selling Rafiki bracelets for hurricane relief in Haiti and as payment to the Kenyan artisans who made the bracelets.
Because of Jacob's brainstorming for an activity to involve more of the Nicollet community, the ME to WE Club rounded up more than 50 Nicollet students, parents, and staff members to make 530 sandwiches for homeless people in January 2017.
Since then they’ve made another 2,990 sandwiches, and the group has committed to making 3,000 sandwiches in May -- all inspired and under the direction of Jacob. As the total goal for sandwiches has increased, Jacob has come up with new ways to raise money for the groceries needed to make them.
This past winter, it was Jacob’s idea to have a clothing drive contest between advisory classes. Within three short weeks, Nicollet collected a small truckload of clothing to donate for those in need.
This amazing student demonstrates a concern and caring for others and a commitment to volunteering that is extraordinary for someone of his age.
Olivia Brammer truly brings the district’s mission of “Future Ready” and “Community Strong” to life.
This remarkable student has been involved with so much of what happens at Burnsville High School, and her extraordinary commitment to volunteering has inspired many others.
Olivia has volunteered over 1,081 hours of service during the past 2 and a half years at Burnsville High School, wisely using her volunteering to express her passions in life and explore her options for the future.
Some examples of her volunteering include Bowls for BrainPower, BHS Giving Garden, South of the River Pow Wow, multi-cultural night, BurnsvilleStrong, and senior class officer.
Olivia is the house manager for theater productions at BHS, and she created a mentor program in working with special education students to become volunteer ushers during theatre productions.
Olivia is the only student member of two community groups: the city of Burnsville’s Park and Natural Resources Commission and the city’s International Festival. She’s a leader in the YMCA’s Youth in Government program.
She is a person who dives into life and activities with passion and excitement which ignites sparks in the people around her. She is driven to make a change in the world and has many ideas on how to do that. Whatever she’s involved in, Olivia always has the best interests of ALL students at heart and is working to make her school and community a better place.
Olivia has tremendous impact by her example, and she makes everyone feel included and gets them to work together as a team. She is a role model and mentor for younger students.
Students at Burnsville High School see how dedicated she is to her community, how kind she is to everyone, and how hard she works to achieve goals.
Sarah Schulte goes above and beyond and is a shining example of what a committed and giving volunteer is, according to community member Renee Strom, who nominated Sarah for this award.
Sarah’s involvement started small and has continued to grow. First she assisted her child’s teacher with some classroom projects. Then she volunteered to create silent auction baskets for the school carnival.
That led to her becoming deeply involved in many aspects of volunteering at Rahn!
Sarah is an incredibly creative person and her passion for the arts is clear through her volunteer service. For three years Sarah has been the parent lead on the school’s Art Adventures committee. She coordinates the art theme for the year and recruits parent volunteers to share information about various pieces of art with Rahn students.
This project results in important discussions with students about diversity in art, historical events represented in art, and the subjective nature of art.
Sarah serves on the yearbook committee, and ensures that Rahn students feel included and valued in the publication.
She is often seen with a camera taking photos at school events.
This year Sarah took on an even bigger leadership role in the PTO by serving as co-chair. In her new role, Sarah has brought new ideas and a passion for improving the lives of students and staff.
This is her third year as chairperson of Rahn’s teacher appreciation activities. Again, her creative talents are in full view during the wonderful week of activities to honor Rahn’s staff members.
In Fall 2017, Sarah co-chaired the Rahn PTO’s first-ever “Blazing Fun Run” which raised over $10,000 for Brainpower in a Backpack and other events to strengthen community at the school.
Sarah is dependable, hard-working and kind. Her willingness to step into a leadership role in the PTO, and her continued commitment to so many volunteer positions at Rahn, show her dedication to students, families and staff members.
Tom and Deb Shepley
Tom and Deb Shepley have been volunteering in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage community since 2008 when the oldest of their four sons was in the 5th grade.
In particular, Tom and Deb have been involved in supporting student-athletes, their families and athletic programs, according to community member Cheryl Bardwell, who nominated the couple for this award.
They’ve provided continued positive support to each and every player at various athletic events including football, basketball, baseball, track and field, lacrosse and tennis.
They’ve spent many hours supporting, feeding, fundraising not only for their boys, but many student-athletes. They are outstanding examples of what it means to volunteer; to willingly serve their community and schools.
Tom and Deb have run Booster Clubs, served on boards, organized tournaments, led fundraising events, and managed concessions. The time they’ve put into these activities is truly remarkable.
They’ve also built community by hosting team meals and organizing team banquets.
Tom and Deb are the biggest super fans to ALL the athletes and provide continued positive support.
Tom and Deb were among parents who contributed to the start of a homework tutoring sessions and provide students-athletes with academic support, a meal, a semi-quiet place to study and rides home if needed. They also reach out to the parents of the players to welcome them and encourage and support their involvement.
Creating this positive environment is what makes Tom and Deb so special. They encourage others to volunteer of their time and talents. They lead by example and are role models for other parents in the district on how to give back to their community and provide support to their children.
Tom and Deb are a dynamic duo whose leadership, dedication and commitment to helping others has touched the lives of students, families, staff and community members. They are truly inspiring.
Back in 2005, a parent and community member Steve Fiebiger began working to set up a not-for-profit foundation to “enhance, enrich and expand educational opportunities” for all students in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191.
He met with district staff members and active volunteers in the community to present his idea for a foundation and to ask others how such an organization could benefit students.
After determining that a foundation would be a great benefit to the district in providing additional opportunities for learning and growth for students from preschool on up, Steve, who is an attorney, began the process of setting up a 501c3 organization. This is not an easy process.
As the Founding Father of Foundation 191, Steve has had enormous impact. He has served as chair of the foundation from its inception until this year. During that time, he was instrumental in obtaining more than $100,000 in funds and in-kind contributions to benefit students in all of our schools.
He worked tirelessly to recruit board members and to raise funds through numerous events including reading events at Barnes & Noble, a Grapes and Grains event at the Ames Center, co-sponsoring the Dan Patch Days Race, and an annual golf tournament.
He helped grow the foundation to the point where it has given more than 65 grants totalling over $55,000 and literally benefited every student in the district from early childhood through high school.
An early project was the “Sounds of Math” in all 10 elementary schools with a folk musician teaching students to build and play dulcimers using math and music concepts.
Another project was helping to fund a new literacy program for incoming kindergarteners through Community Education’s Early Childhood Education.
Other examples of projects funded by the foundation include Bowls for BrainPower, the Harriet Bishop Service Club, BHS Robotics and drumline, a calculator lending library, Girls on the Run, field trips and more.
Because of Steve, students in our school district have had amazing educational enrichment experiences that they would NOT have had without Foundation 191.
Jan Rempher is a long-time neighbor of Sioux Trail Elementary. She lives in the North River Hills neighborhood and volunteered at the school when her children were students there.
Now 20 years later, her connection to Sioux Trail Elementary remains strong!
Jan now volunteers at the school with her trained English springer spaniel, Arthur, to boost reading skills of students.
She approached the school several years ago with the offer to come into school and work with some reluctant readers who might benefit from some reading practice and confidence building.
Jan is affiliated with “Tail Waggin’ Tutors” which is a reading program of Therapy Dogs International. The main objective of this program is to provide a relaxed and “dog-friendly” atmosphere, which allows students to practice the skill of reading.
By sitting down next to Arthur and reading to him, all threats of being judged are put aside. The child relaxes, pats the attentive dog, and focuses on reading out loud. Reading improves because the child is practicing the skill of reading, building self-esteem, and associating reading with something pleasant.
Jan and Arthur faithfully arrive at Sioux Trail three days each week and bring sunshine, affection, and consistency to students’ lives.
“Jan and Arthur are gifts to Sioux Trail Elementary,” according to Sharron Stalock, enrichment teacher.
Second grade teacher Karen Otremba says, “The willingness of my students to try reading and the progress they have made is fantastic. This program is PHENOMENAL!”
Jan and Arthur are models of patience and encouragement and each student enjoys his or her time with them. Jan brings two suitcases full of books she’s bought that are culturally appropriate and high interest to students so there’s always a different selection for students to choose when they read with Janet and Arthur.
Janet and Arthur are truly a testament of the value that our community has for students and their learning at Sioux Trail Elementary.