Sheriff's Office establishes a Safe Exchange site for online sales

The Safe Exchange Zone is on the far side of the parking lot in front of the Law Enforcement Center.  Signs designate the site, which is well lit and is covered by surveillance cameras.  The light pole on the left side of the photo has a camera on it.  (Photo by Ed DuBois)

With the increasing popularity of online sales, the Wright County Sheriff's Office is now offering a safe and secure area to complete these transactions.

The Wright County Law Enforcement Center (LEC) parking lot, located at 3800 Braddock Ave. NE, in Buffalo, Minn. now has a designated area in the west (front) side of the LEC to meet and make the exchanges from popular online websites such as Craig's List, eBay or Facebook.

The Sheriff's Office parking lot is well lit and covered by surveillance cameras 24 hours a day, which makes it the perfect place to meet and make these exchanges.  Signage has been placed in the parking lot designating an area as a Safe Exchange Zone.

While the overwhelming majority of users are trustworthy and well-intentioned, the Wright County Sheriff's Office reminds people to keep these basic safety precautions in mind while shopping online and meeting someone for the first time:

- Insist on meeting in a public place that is well lit and covered by video surveillance.

- Bring a friend or family member with you.

- Always tell your friends and family where you are going and who you are meeting.

- Avoid meeting at your home, if at all possible, and never invite anyone that you do not know into your home.

- Take your cell phone with you.

- Trust your instincts.

For more information about personal safety on-line, check out these resources, and

The Wright County Sheriff's Office also invites blended families to utilize the Safe Exchange Zone for child custody arrangements.

For more information, contact Capt. Sean Deringer at 763-682-7619.

Chief Deputy Todd Hoffman gave the County Board a brief report about the Safe Exchange Program last Tuesday, Jan. 24.

In other county board business:



Hoffman told the Board about a $20,000 donation from UMC (Ultra Machining Company) of Monticello.  The money is being used for a purchase later this year of a search and rescue drone.

The Board called for staff to draft a letter of thanks for the generous gift.



The Board accepted a Planning Commission recommendation to approve a request from John Holthaus to rezone 29-30 acres in Chatham Township from agricultural use to agricultural-residential use.

The Board also accepted a recommendation to approve a request from John Staloch to rezone about 20 acres in Monticello Township from agricultural use to agricultural-residential use.



In other actions, the Board:

- canceled the May 30 board meeting (The commissioners regularly cancel one meeting in each month with five Tuesdays.);

- approved an abatement policy and a resolution delegating certain abatement powers to the County Assessor and the County Auditor-Treasurer;

- heard a report from Commissioner Chris Husom about courts facility tours in Washington County and Blue Earth County;

- approved a revised joint powers agreement for the Highway 25 Corridor, including the Cities of Monticello, Big Lake and Becker, Big Lake and Becker Townships, and Counties of Sherburne and Wright;

- accepted, on behalf of the City of Annandale, federal funding for a $408,629 Southside Trail Extension Contract;

- authorized the county highway engineer and the assistant county highway engineer to attend the National Association of County Engineers (NACE) Annual Meeting in Cincinnati April 9-13 (includes a management and technical conference with informative sessions and workshops);

- accepted the 2015 Indirect Cost Allocation Plan following a report and a questions and answers session with Diane Blaschko of Denovo Consulting Services (The plan helps the county with reimbursements from the state.)

- approved filling a social worker position;

- approved a labor contract agreement with AFSCME Council 65 (includes a 2.5-percent wage increase each year);

- approved a labor contract agreement with the Assistant Wright County Attorneys' Association (includes a 2.5-percent wage increase each year); and

- approved $176,892 in claims involving 401 transactions with 182 vendors.



Pickup truck breaks through ice

By Ed DuBois

The Wright County Sheriff's Office advises being extremely careful while ice fishing.  A pickup truck broke through thin ice on Buffalo Lake last Saturday evening, Jan. 21.

The Sheriff's Office was notified at 7:46 p.m. about a man in need of rescue just southwest of the north access on Buffalo Lake.  The Buffalo Fire Department assisted with the rescue.  The man who was rescued, David Reemtz, 71, of Dayton, Minn., told rescuers he started ice fishing around 3 p.m.  Due to fog and darkness he had trouble finding a safe route back to the access.

He explained that he usually drives a vehicle with a GPS device.  However, the pickup truck he was driving last Saturday did not have GPS.

The truck broke through ice that was about 2-3 inches thick near open water in the area where Mill Creek flows into the lake.  Reemtz told rescuers he normally avoids the area near the creek.

Elsewhere on the lake, the ice was about 11-12 inches thick.

Reemtz was on top of his vehicle just before being rescued unharmed.  Someone had heard calls for help and then contacted the Sheriff's Office.  The pickup truck was in about 3-4 feet of water.

The truck was retrieved from the lake the next day, with assistance provided by Junction Towing.  The area was then posted with thin ice warning signs.

Relatively warm recent weather and rain have increased the danger on lake ice, according to Capt. Sean Deringer of the Sheriff's Office.

"Be extremely careful," he said.



Driver facing charges after vehicle strikes students at bus stop

Cody Pech

By Ed DuBois

A 22-year-old Lexington, Minn. man is facing criminal vehicular operation charges following an incident in Otsego last Thursday, Jan. 19, when three Rogers High School students were struck by a vehicle at a bus stop.

The Wright County Sheriff's Office reported the incident occurred around 6:50 a.m.  Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the intersection of 78th St. NE and Parrish Ave. NE.  Upon arrival, deputies found three juvenile pedestrians had been struck by a vehicle.  Initial reports indicated an Elk River School District bus was stopped on 78th St. NE at Parrish Ave. NE with its stop arm out.  The bus was waiting to pick up students, and as students walked toward the bus, three were struck by an oncoming pickup truck.

The students who were injured were identified as Greta Jenson, 15, Beckett Olson, 15, and Ian Orina, 15, all of Otsego.  All three were hospitalized, and their condition was listed as critical.

The 22-year-old driver of the pickup truck, Cody Pech of Lexington, Minn., was arrested and booked into the Wright County Jail on criminal vehicular operation charges.

The Wright County Attorney's Office has since formally filed charged.  According to the criminal complaint, the school bus driver said 24-25 students were inside the bus at the time of the incident.  Pech told a Sheriff's Office investigator he did not see the school bus nor did he see flashing lights on the bus as he approached the intersection.  Conditions were slightly foggy that morning, according to the Sheriff's Office.

As of Monday, Jan. 23, Greta Jenson and Beckett Olson were still in critical condition, and Ian Orina was in satisfactory condition, according to the Hennepin County Medical Center.

HCMC provided the following statement from the family of Beckett Olson: Our lives were turned upside down dramatically the morning of Jan. 19, when Beckett was injured.  Although his injuries are significant and numerous, we are so grateful for the improvements we are seeing in him.  Our family would like to thank everyone for their prayers and support.  It has been amazing to feel so much love and concern from family, friends and even people we don't know.  The first responders at the scene and the staff of both Mercy Hospital and HCMC have been incredibly instrumental in his ongoing recovery.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the two classmates and their families who are also struggling with this tragedy.

There's still a long road of recovery for Beckett and the other two students.  There has been a GoFundMe account set up on their behalf to help defray medical expenses.  Future updates on can be found on Beckett's CaringBridge site.



KleinBank CEO issues statement about Justice Department suit

KleinBank President and CEO Doug Hile has issued a statement on the KleinBank website addressing a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department.  KleinBank, which has 21 locations in Minnesota, is accused of a discriminatory practice called redlining.

Hile's statement follows:


To Our Customers & Communities:

In the spirit of partnership, we want to share our perspective on the recent U.S. Department of Justice action against KleinBank.

For well over a year, we have been working cooperatively with the U.S. Department of Justice on an inquiry about our lending practices. Banking is a highly regulated business, and, while inquiries by governmental agencies are fairly common, this is the first one from this particular federal agency in our 110-year history. We have provided significant amounts of information in response to the inquiry and we have cooperated with their requests in all respects.

The Department of Justice has now filed a complaint alleging we have engaged in "redlining," asserting in this case that we have intentionally not served the mortgage credit needs of minority borrowers in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

It's important that you know KleinBank vigorously disputes the government's claim of "redlining," which has absolutely no basis in fact. To the contrary - and as many of you can confirm - we have an established history of responding to all credit requests with a commitment to fairness and equal opportunity. And the government does not dispute this history.

As you may know, KleinBank is subject to extensive and rigorous examinations by federal and state regulators. Year after year, the results of these examinations have found that we have well served all of our constituents' needs. The markets that we serve and the regulations that we follow are continuously changing, often in complex ways. We have always stayed true to our values and we have been meticulous and proactive in adapting to the changes.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are not part of our market, and we have virtually no business there. These are highly competitive markets and they are comprehensively served by well-established financial institutions with numerous branches and many years of history. The complaint alleges, however, that KleinBank had a proactive duty to expand beyond our century-old roots in Carver County and western Minnesota to build branches in Minneapolis and St. Paul, which is a baseless and unprecedented reach by the government.

We are confident that a full and fair review of our practices will validate our exceptional history of community lending and community responsiveness.

KleinBank has been your community bank for more than a century. You can rely on us for our commitment to serve you and our communities with integrity, fairness and flexibility. It's our commitment that we will continue to work collaboratively on solutions to the benefit of all.

Thank you for your continued trust in, and support of, all of us at KleinBank.



Doug Hile, President and CEO



VFW Post 1901 seeking support for Veterans Memorial project

A dream is closer to reality as the Wright County VFW Post 1901 is now seeking help for the funding of a Veterans Memorial at the post home on Highway 12 in Montrose.

The Wright County Veterans of Foreign Wars of Montrose and the Honor Project Committee are committed to seeing the construction of a permanent monument located at the Wright County VFW post home in Montrose.  The monument will honor Wright County veterans who have served in any of the five branches of the military, including the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard.

The goal of the Honor Project Committee is to construct a memorial that honors veterans with ties to the local community, while at the same time promoting civic pride.  As part of the fundraising efforts for construction of this memorial, the committee is asking for the support of Wright County businesses, organizations and individuals to help make this dream become a reality.

The estimated cost of the memorial project, in excess of $20,000, exceeds the funding capabilities of the local veterans' organizations.  Your help is needed to support this worthy effort to memorialize and recognize our hometown heroes who gave all or a part of their lives for our nation and the freedoms we enjoy.

Any donation of any amount will be greatly appreciated and will go toward the materials and labor required for the construction.  If an individual, business or organization is interested in donating materials or supplies, the committee would put these donations to use into the project, as well.

All significant contributors will be recognized in promotional materials, events and ceremonies to commemorate and honor veterans.  Silver, Gold and Platinum sponsors will be recognized on pavers embedded in the walkways surrounding the memorial and will also be noted in promotional materials, events and ceremonies.

Donation levels include: bronze level, $200 - $499, recognition in promotional materials; silver level, $500 - $999, sponsor name engraved in one line on a 4-by-8 paver; gold level, $1,000 - $1,499, sponsor name engraved in two lines on a 4-by-8 paver; and platinum level, over $1,500, sponsor name engraved in three lines on a 8-by-8 paver.

Smaller donations will also be greatly appreciated for this opportunity to be part of honoring local veterans.

Contributions, which are tax-deductible, may be sent to: VFW Post 1901 - Honor Project, PO Box 278, Montrose, MN 55363.

If you have any questions, please contact a member of the Honor Project Committee, Patty Youmans 763-675-3927, Tracy Gurneau 612-559-7411, Wade Gurneau 612-559-7338, or Greg Youmans 612-597-3637.

The Honor Committee will also be sponsoring a fundraising concert "Elvis Rock 'n' Soul" on Saturday, May 13 at the Delano American Legion.



Budget, pay equity addressed by BHM Board

By Ed DuBois

Budget assumptions for the 2017-18 school year and a pay equity analysis were some of the topics at the Buffalo Hanover Montrose (BHM) School Board meeting last Monday, Jan. 23.

Finance and Operations Director Gary Kawlewski presented the budget assumptions, which he said will provide the framework for developing next year's budget.

"The assumptions match those used in generating the financial projections for the next three years, which was presented at the Jan. 9 board workshop," Kawlewski reported.  "However, there is a slight change in the superintendent contingency positions."

He explained the forecast included 12.3 FTE (full-time equivalent) positions for the regular education program. The final total is set at 12.95 FTE positions, 10 of which have already been allocated.  That leaves a net total of 2.95 FTE positions.  Additionally, the forecast included a 1.0 FTE special education position.

The recommendation for the 2017-18 Budget Assumptions follows:

- Enrollment projections based on the November 2016 enrollment report;

- $189.55 board approved referendum approved in 2013 - No additional referendum authority;

- General Ed revenue formula allowance increases 1% and moves to $6,128 for 2017-18;

- Kindergarten projection assumes 99% of the students will attend full day program;

- Special Education aid increases 1.0% (one percent);

- Literacy Aid implemented in 2012-13 continues through 2017-18;

- OPEB contributions continue in 2017-18;

- Maintain 2014-15 approved staffing ratios also used for 2016-17;

- 1.0 FTE special education staffing contingency;

- 12.95 FTE Superintendent Contingency staffing to address staffing issues;

- Continuation of 6.0 FTE for Class Size Reduction-includes Marketing budget and social workers;

- Continuation of 6.0 FTE addition for Location Equity Revenue funding;

- Salary and benefit changes based on settlements in place and market conditions for non-settled contracts;

- Non-Salary, Non-Benefits Costs are estimated to increase at 0-5%;

- Continued cost containment initiatives such as joint purchasing agreements, energy use reduction, paper reduction, insurance contracts, and other operational efficiencies;

- QComp (PPD) continues for 2017-18 assuming matching revenues and expenditures;

- $400,000 to be allocated to assigned fund balance for technology set aside to be spent in the future.



Moreen Orr, director of human resources, spoke to the Board about the 2016 Pay Equity Report.  She said state law requires all public school districts to eliminate any sex-based wage inequities in compensation.  In 1992, the DOER (Department of Employee Relations) Compensation Division began analyzing reports from local governments to ensure that compliance is achieved and maintained.

"We are required to submit a Pay Equity Report to DOER by Jan. 31, 2017, based on staff employed by District 877 as of Dec. 31, 2016," Orr reported.  "DOER will review and notify the district of compliance by Fall 2017."

Compliance testing must be met in all four areas listed below:

1. Completeness and Accuracy Test: It acknowledges the school district submitted accurately and on time. Upon approval of the Board of Education, the report will be electronically submitted to DOER on Tuesday, January 24, 2017, to meet the January 31st deadline for compliance.

2. Statistical Analysis Test: This test compares salary data to determine if female classes of employees are paid consistently below male classes of employees of comparable work value/job points. Test Requirement: An underpayment ratio of 80% or higher is required. Preliminary Results: Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School District has an underpayment ratio of higher than 80%. There are four male classes of employees. A male class is determined when 80% or more of the employees in a class are male.

3. Salary Range Test: This test compares the average number of years it takes for employees to move through salary ranges (steps in contracts) established for female classes compared to male classes. Test Requirement: A salary range test of 80% or more is required. Preliminary Results: Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School District's salary range test is 92.78%.

4. Exceptional Service Pay Test: This test compares how often employees in male classes receive longevity pay or performance pay above the normal salary range compared to how often individuals in female classes receive this type of pay. Test Requirement: An exceptional service pay test of 80% or more is required. Preliminary Results: Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School District's exceptional service pay test is 119.30%.

The preliminary reports indicate the school district remains in compliance in the four areas of pay equity requirements.



Mitch Bunting, student representative, talked about efforts to provide support for the Student Care Committee at the high school.  He also talked about planning for RAVE (Respect and Value Everyone) Week, Feb. 28 to March 3.  The event's focus this year is to help raise awareness about the need to avoid distracted driving.  A guest speaker will be Pat Hackman, executive director of Safe Communities of Wright County.



The Board is proud of the Buffalo High School Mock Trial Varsity Team, who won the 2017 Mississippi 8 Conference Title.



The Board reviewed the 2017-18 school calendar, which is already approved and appears on the school district website.  The first day of school is Sept. 5.  The Thanksgiving Break is Nov. 22-24.  The Winter Break is Dec. 22 to Jan. 1.  The Spring Break is April 2-6.  The last day of school is June 7.



In other actions, the Board:

- accepted $11,634 in donations and grants, including nearly $3,000 from DonorsChoose for Chromebooks at Hanover Elementary School and $3,000 in NFL Play 60 grants for physical education at Parkside, Discovery and Tatanka Elementary Schools;

- approved authorized signers for electronic fund transfers: Scott Thielman, Gary Kawlewski, Miranda Kramer, Erica Fiske, and Allison Robinson; and

- approved signers for official depositories: Dave Wilson, Melissa Brings, Laurie Raymond, Scott Thielman, Gary Kawlewski, Miranda Kramer, Erica Fiske, and Allison Robinson.



Upcoming meetings include a board workshop Monday, Feb. 13, 4:30 p.m., at Tatanka Elementary, and a regular board meeting Monday, Feb. 27, 7:00 p.m., in the Board Room at the Discovery Center.



Ty Heckenlaible achieves Eagle Scout rank

Ty Heckenlaible


Ty Heckenlaible, a member of Boy Scout Troop 312 in Montrose, achieved the rank of Eagle Scout on Oct. 2, 2016.  His Eagle Court of Honor Ceremony was held on Saturday, Jan. 7 at the Montrose Community Center.

A senior at Buffalo High School, Heckenlaible started in Cub Scouts while in the first grade and was very committed to becoming an Eagle Scout, according to his parents, Dale and Connie Heckenlaible of Buffalo.  He crossed over to Boy Scouts in 2010.  He earned 27 merit badges.  His favorite involved whitewater rafting and kayaking.  He especially enjoyed high adventure camps and a trip to Alaska with the troop.  He joined the Order of the Arrow in 2012 and the Crow River Ceremonial Team in 2014 (performing the cross over ceremonies for Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, memorizing his speaking role and dressing in Native American regalia).

His Eagle Scout service project was completed in May 2015.  Collaborating with Wright County Parks and Recreation, he installed three park benches along the bike path on CSAH (County State Aid Highway) 12 between Montrose and Buffalo.

Heckenlaible was the sixteenth Eagle Scout in Troop 312 since 1991, and one of five Eagle Scouts over the past year.  The Court of Honor Ceremony was attended by approximately 80 people.

Heckenlaible plans to attend St. Cloud State University and pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering.



Buffalo Art Guild shows its sunny side for CBS

If you watched the CBS Sunday Morning show this past weekend, you might have caught a glimpse of the work by Buffalo Art Guild member Corinne Miller.  It was fittingly shown at the end of a segment about artists' Matisse and Diebenkorn, side by side.

This past spring, the Buffalo Art Guild created Sun Themed Artwork, inspired by the show.  For this group project, the Guild provided each artist with an 11-by-14-inch canvas.  The only parameters were to create a Sun piece of art.  This diverse body of work was featured at MidCountry Bank, Buffalo during Buffalo Days 2016 and is currently on display at the Buffalo Companion Animal Clinic.  Images of each piece (taken by Photographer Jim Eckberg) were sent to CBS Sunday Morning, along with the artists' consent.

Keep watching the show (locally on Channel 4, WCCO, each Sunday, 8-9:30 a.m.) to catch more local artists.  You can also follow the Guild on Facebook to keep posted about upcoming meetings, shows and events.

The Buffalo Art Guild is a 501C3 nonprofit organization that meets the third Monday of each month at the Buffalo Airport.  The meetings offer a variety of programs and have something for everyone.  Doors open for the meetings at 6:45 p.m., and the meetings take place from 7:15-8:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Linda Pacel at 763-682-4261 or email


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Far away from home

Nine exchange students at Buffalo High School experiencing their American adventure

By Ed DuBois

One of the nine exchange students at Buffalo High School (BHS) this year, Anna Gallon of Italy, commented that it feels like she has a second life here in Minnesota.  Each of the exchange students has family and friends at home in their own counties, and they each have a host family and friends in America.

Caroline Thomacheski of Brazil followed up with an observation that those back at home and those here will probably never meet each other.  However, through experiences and the stories the exchange students will tell, they will be able to get the folks at home acquainted to some degree with the Americans in Buffalo.

Their enthusiasm during an interview for this story indicates their reports will probably be positive.  Neus Julia of Spain, who had never watched hockey before coming here, is serving as a boys' hockey team student manager, and she said she has been "welcomed so well."  Anna is also a student manager for the team.  (Neus and Anna are staying with the same host family.)

"Everyone has been so nice.  This is such a welcoming place," Anna said.

Besides getting involved with hockey, she was in swimming and diving, along with Neus.


American adventure

Anna said she signed up to be an exchange student to seek new experiences.  For example, taking a ceramics art class was one of her new experiences.

Many of the exchange students mentioned learning English better was one of their reasons for coming to America.

Caroline was amused when students who had taken Spanish classes at BHS spoke to her in Spanish.  She explained to them that Portuguese is the primary language spoken in Brazil, not Spanish.

Konomi Kimura of Japan would like to start a career with an international organization after she finishes school, and for that goal, she needs to learn English well.  She has studied English three years.  Now living in an English-speaking country, she hopes to improve her fluency.


Holiday highlights

Konomi has enjoyed the holidays very much while in Buffalo.

"In Japan, we have Christmas and Halloween, but we do not have Thanksgiving, and I really enjoyed it here.  My host family has big holiday gatherings, and about 80 people came for Christmas," she said.

She received many Christmas presents, and she mentioned only a few presents are typically received for Christmas in Japan.

Anna had great fun with Halloween.

"We don't have it in Italy.  I loved it!" she said.


Trying new things

Ida Christensen of Denmark was wearing a Minnesota Wild jersey on the day of the newspaper interview.  She said she was looking for adventure when she signed up for exchange program.  Her home is in a small town.  She was anxious to go somewhere and do something different.

She joined the varsity girls' soccer team and loved it.  She made many new friends.  Soccer is the biggest sport in Denmark, she said.

Caroline said she tried skiing for the first time when she came here.  She also made a snowman for the first time.  It does not snow much in Brazil.

She is a member of the BHS dance team.  She became an exchange student to learn English better, as well as to see what life is like in another family.  Now she has two families and loves both of them.


Enjoying school

Hanna Schotte of Germany said graduating is very difficult in her country.  She enjoys school more here, where even the CIS (College in the Schools) classes are easier than the classes at her school in Germany.

Becoming an exchange student, she looked forward to experiencing another way of living.  The head of her host family is a single mom, and she has much to do.  Even so, the family is close, and there is a strong family bond, Hanna said.  Everyone helps out around the house to keep it tidy.

Hanna enjoys her host family's many pets, which include: a horse, four birds, two dogs, and two cats.

In regard to the education system, Neus said the classes might not be as difficult here, but American students learn in different ways.  She came here to learn English better because she would like to be an English teacher.  She feels students get a good education here.

Ida expressed surprise that choir is a class here.  In other countries, choir is not offered in school.


Going to prom

Jessica Shubert of Germany saw the exchange program as a way to challenge herself.  She added that she loves to travel.

"I really like it here," she said.  "I like the houses here."

Hanna did not agree with Jessica about the houses.  Hanna prefers sturdier building materials and more variety in home designs.

Anna did not seem to care as much about where she lived as long as she could experience new things.

"I like to move a lot.  I don't want to stay in one place too long," she said.

"I grew up with American culture in movies and TV shows," she added.  "I saw things like prom and said, 'I want to do that!'"

Asked if she would like to go to prom this spring, Anna replied, "I want to go.  I AM going to be there."


Huge new stadium

Caroline was asked if she was able to go to the Rio Olympics.  She said the tickets were way too expensive.

However, she is looking forward to trips to California and Florida later this year.

Ida was able to see a Minnesota Wild game.  However, the experience could have been better.

"It was the one they lost," she said dejectedly.

Several exchange students enjoyed fun activities with their host families.  Anna and Neus enjoyed a trip to Duluth.  Ida has plans for an East Coast trip through Rotary International in June.

Mall of America visits and Vikings games at the huge new U.S. Bank Stadium were among other activities.  Ida saw a USA vs. Switzerland women's soccer match at the new stadium.  Anna, Jessica, Caroline, and Neus were there for a Monster Jam event.

Konomi said her host family is very active.  She has seen Boston, Chicago and Duluth, and more trips being planned include a stay in Florida, as well as a road trip to see several national parks.


Staying busy

Closer to home, Hanna said she has loved the lakes in the Buffalo area.  She has enjoyed the lake scenery while driving around, and she had a great time tubing and paddleboarding at her host grandparents' cabin on Granite Lake near Annandale.

Neus and Anna have enjoyed learning about hockey.  Neus said she has tried skating and now has a great appreciation for the skills of skating and stickhandling at the same time.

Jessica has been getting ready for track and field by running regularly with Marielle Seeleman of the Netherlands.

Konomi joined the ski club and went skiing for the first time this winter.

"I fell about 40 times and had a big bruise on my leg," she said.  "But I am getting better.  Last time, I only fell 6 times."


Happy and lively

The exchange students are staying so busy, they do not appear to be feeling homesick.  They have been staying in touch with loved ones in their home countries through online means, such as Facetime.

Many of them agreed with Anna when she said she feels like she has a second life in America.  The adventure continues as the students report what is happening in their second life to their first-life families.

The reports have probably been very positive so far.  They are a happy and lively group.