Elk River High School junior Fanaka Ndege is the 11th-grade winner in the Minnesota Twins Father of the Year Essay Contest. Additionally, three other Elk River juniors received runner-up recognition.
Ndege’s essay is entitled “What My Father Means to Me.” He describes how his father, an immigrant from Kenya, taught him how to live through his actions. “Education was the only answer to success,” writing about his father, adding that overcoming his struggles inspired many people.”
The Advanced Placement (AP) student also is a recording artist, having released in 2008 a rap song in English and Swahili about bringing people of different generations and backgrounds together. He has raised funds for the rescue and resettlement of North Korean refugees, according to a press release.
Last fall Ndege and two other Elk River multicultural students won first place in a state fair talent contest, performing rap, break-dancing and synchronized duets. Last fall he was also a local honorable mention in the VFW Voice of Democracy speech contest. He also is a member of the school cross country and track team.
Four of the five 11th-grade recognitions of the contest went to Elk River High School students. Juniors Emily Thao, Rachel Cawthra and Nathan Webster each were recognized in the runner-up category. The four students are mentored by AP language and composition instructor Denise Eidem.
“Fanaka’s essay illustrates his father’s support and speaks of their strong father/son bond,” said Eidem adding that he “writes and speaks with feeling.” “Fanaka works hard at everything he does, from academics, to dance, to sports; he has natural talent and an infectious smile and I am so proud of him and the other students in this year’s AP composition class.”
A total of 4,128 essays from throughout the state were entered in to this year’s contest.
The Father of the Year Essay Contest was created by the National Center for Fathering in 1992 to raise awareness about the importance of fathering. Ndege will be recognized and will share his essay at the Celebration of Fatherhood June 16 at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis. He and the other award winners will be guests at that evening’s Twins game.