STRIVE just what she was looking for

by Jim Boyle


Elk River High School graduate Samantha Duerr sloughed off her first two years of high school.

“I didn’t care,” the recent Elk River High School graduate said of her studies. “All I cared about was my friends and having fun.”

She finished strong, however, and picked up a couple of scholarships from the Elk River Rotary the day before her graduation ceremony last week.

The first was $1,000 for the most improved G.P.A. of 14 students who took part in the Elk River Rotary’s first attempt at STRIVE, a program designed to motivate eligible seniors to discover their own inner strengths and talents as well as to increase their personal and academic achievement.

Duerr got a second scholarship for $300 for having the best overall G.P.A.

“I was shocked,” she said. “I had no idea I was getting them.”

The Elk River Rotary plans to expand the program next year to meet with students even more.

Samantha Duerr (center) received a $1,000 scholarship and a $300 scholarship from the Rotary.

Dan Dixon, the incoming Rotary president, led the program with the help of 14 other Rotarians.

“We look forward to starting the program earlier in the school year next year and having an even greater impact,” Dixon said.

Six of the students had perfect attendance and each received a crisp $100 bill at an awards program.

Collin Carpenter got a $500 scholarship for the second most improved G.P.A.

Other students to participate in the program were Matt Durushia, Calvin Faircloth, Kyle Huffstetler, Brooke Landahl, Frank Mich, Josh Richard, Zach Rooker, Dylan Schreifels, Mindy Skochenski, Jessica Swaggert, Kayla Swanson and Breanna Yearwood.

Rotarians included Jim Boyle, Lynn Caswell, Dixon, Bonnie Koste, Bob Maxwell, Cathy Mehelich, John Osterman, Nicole Rasmussen, Debbi Rydberg, Alan Sakry, Robin Skinner, Kayla Stai, Marilyn VanPatten and Stewart Wilson.


STRIVE changed her perspective on stress

Duerr has been no stranger to signing up for things in high school. She has joined everything from the school’s multi-cultural club and a women’s group to DECA, cheerleading and her personal favorite called New Wilderness.

STRIVE was different from those groups, however. Its  acronym stands for Students Taking Renewed Interest in the Value of Education. The acronym for the program describes Duerr to a “T.”

It was in her junior year that she began to question her approach to academics. More and more teachers began to tell her G.P.A. matters, so she began to examine such claims. She realized her teachers weren’t blowing smoke.

When Michelle Riemer, a school counselor, suggested STRIVE to her she thought it would be a good idea. The students had to sign a contract of commitment to participate. The parents had to sign a consent form. The thought of scholarships was a motivator.

“I will need them,” she recalled thinking.

Elk River Rotarians met with STRIVE students once a month during the second half of the school year and went over a variety of topics, like time management and goal setting. The Rotary Club has as one of its strategic goals developing future leaders.

Duerr plans to pursue photography as a career. She took photography all through school and worked on the high school yearbook her senior year. She would like to have her own photography business someday, possibly taking portraits of children.


Student found the curriculum helpful

Duerr said she particularly liked the money management and stress management segments.

“I used to always think about stress in a bad way,” she said. “This program helped me see it as a positive and helped me relax.

“Instead of falling behind and getting more stressed I used the stress to get things done,” she said.

Dixon said he thought the relationships that developed were even more important than the curriculum.

Duerr agrees.

She said she appreciated the Rotarians coming to the school, getting to know them and learning about what they did in the community.

“It was nice to hear from people outside of the school, people other than my friends’ parents, about what they did,” she said.

Duerr has been accepted at two schools and has decided to start at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Thanks to her hard work, she has the first $1,300 in tuition covered.


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