Students: Keep In Touch With LILA!

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We love to hear about your adventures and achievements after you leave LILA. Tell us about your accomplishments. What organizations do you participate in? How did LILA make a difference for you? Thanks for sharing! Click here for the link.

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See the Fall 2016 edition here.

Alumni News

Academic & Arts Competitions

• 2015 National FFA Ag Convention
Cameron Strand and Meghan Palmer (LILA alumni) and Joe Ramstad won the national FFA Agricultural Communications Career Development Event title at the national convention in Kentucky. They each received a plaque and $1000.

• 2015 Poetry Out Loud
Bethany Blackmer
, a Forest Lake High School senior in 2015, was selected as one of the top three champions at the state Poetry Out Loud competition held at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis on March 12, 2015.

• 2014 National FFA AgriScience Fair
Megan Palmer
, a Forest Lake High School sophomore, and her teammate, Joe Ramstad, a senior, were finalists in the Social Systems category of the 2014 National FFA AgriScience Fair held in Louisville, Kentucky the last weekend of October. Megan and Joe’s project, “Lessons Learned,” won a gold level ranking and placed 4th in their division of the Social Systems category. The project studied how different teaching methods impact information retention in a classroom setting. More >

• 2014 Youth Voice For Change Award
Jack Callahan
, Forest Lake, and Will Nelson, Lindstrom, were awarded the Most Creative Video Award in the Youth Voices for Change: Climate Change Video Contest at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Will Steger Foundation sponsored the contest. The video project was an action plan to culminate a year-end exhibition project the boys did in 6th grade on glacial melting. The video addressed the architects of the new LILA Headwaters Campus, showing what they would like to see incorporated into the school to make it as ecologically friendly as possible. Jack and Will are contributing the prize money toward implementing their plans. Watch the video.

• 2014 National History Day Competition
Four recent LILA graduates, Fallon Olson, Elliot Krohnke, Katherine Taylor, and Lily Pope, advanced to the state competition from the regional level during the spring 2014 National History Day contest. Bridget Olson and Harrison Taylor, who were in sixth grade at LILA then, also advanced from the regional competition to the 2014 state competition. 

Lily was instrumental in organizing the National History Day program at Southwest Junior High School. Lily received an honorable mention at the 2014 state competition and was named an alternate for the National History Day Competition held in Washington, D.C.  Lily also acted as a personal assistant for the coordinator of History Day in Minnesota, Tim Hoogland. She planned to be involved with various NHD projects over the summer as well. “I love history!” said Lily. “The part I like the most about NHD is the academic research and creating the project.” 

Teachers and parents are involved in the nearly year-long intensive research process. “The two things that I like the most about NHD is that it teaches students how to do college level research and to form an opinion on their research,” said Bronwyn Schafer Pope, Lily’s mother.

Another former LILA parent, Kim Olson, added, “NHD is the best extracurricular scholastic activity my children, Fallon and Bridget, have ever participated in. I love that they are able to complete college level projects at such a young age and to see them so interested in learning more about topics in history.”

• 2014 Forest Lake Has Talent Show
Margaret (Meg) Maurer, then a junior at Forest Lake High School, won 1st place in the 2014 Forest Lake Has Talent Show, held on February 6, 2014, at the Forest Lake High School. Meg played a piano solo, impressing the judges with Chopin’s “Revolutionary Etude.” She received a check for $200.

• 2014 United States Naval Academy STEM Program
Garrett Holland
, then a seventh-grade student at Southwest Junior High School, was selected to attend the prestigious United States Naval Academy Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics (STEM) Camp for incoming eighth- and ninth-grade students June 2 – 7, 2014, at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The camp required a rigorous application process that evaluated each student’s accomplishments in and out of the classroom as well as geography knowledge. Garret acknowledged his bilingual skills in his application and noted that he used his Spanish on trips to Costa Rica. He also wrote that his favorite subjects in school are math and science and that he joined the Civil Air Patrol last spring to learn more about leadership and the military. “I’ve been interested in the Navy since my parents told me that they were in the Navy,” Garret said. “It has been my dream to serve my country as a SEAL or anything in the Navy.” Garret stayed in Bancroft Hall, the same dormitory where his mother, Stacey Holland, lived while she attended the academy. 

The annual STEM camp uses the same facilities as the midshipmen enrolled at USNA and provides experiences with real-life application of science and math principles. The camp includes field trips, tours, and sports during the six-day stay.

• Minnesota Strings & Orchestra Teachers Association Midlevel Honors Orchestra
Sydney Norcross
was accepted to the Minnesota Strings & Orchestra Teachers Association’s 2012 and 2013 Midlevel Honors Orchestra. The group is composed of orchestra players in grades 7-9 from all over the state. They rehearse for a day, and then perform together at the convention center. In addition, Sydney is also in the Forest Lake High School orchestra and its string quartet. Since she was four years old, she has played with the Augsburg College Suzuki program and performed around the Twin Cities as well as Mexico City for the Paz International Festival.

Aria Norcross was selected to play in the Minnesota Strings & Orchestra Teachers Association’s Midlevel Honors Orchestra in 2013. Since she was four years old, Aria has played with the Augsburg College Suzuki program and performed around the Twin Cities as well as Mexico City for the Paz International Festival.  Aria has also been selected by audition for the Minnesota Youth Symphony for three consecutive years.

Awards & Scholarships

• 2014 Better Business Bureau Student of Integrity Scholarship
Margaret Maurer
, a senior at Forest Lake High School, received a $2,500 Better Business Student of Integrity Scholarship on October 30, 2014 at a ceremony held at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus. The award is presented annually to Minnesota and North Dakota high school seniors who demonstrate their understanding of the importance of ethics in an essay. Margaret’s entry recounted her experience assisting in a wound clinic on a Reiser Relief mission trip to Haiti in July 2014, where an old man patiently showed her how to change his leg bandages and taught her about compassion without ever saying a word. Two additional students from the region also received scholarships at the event.

• 2014 NSLI-Y Scholarship To Study Language Abroad
Anna Sherman
, a ninth-grade student at Southwest Junior High School, received a 2014-15 National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) merit-based scholarship to study the Chinese language in Xiamen, China. The six-week immersive program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to encourage high school students to learn less commonly taught languages and gain global leadership skills. “It was the trip of a lifetime!” said Anna, the daughter of James and Kristi Sherman of Forest Lake. She was 15 years old when she traveled to Xiamen during the summer of 2014 and the youngest student selected in her scholarship group.

Anna lived with a host family during her stay. She took language classes and participated in cultural activities, such art classes and festivals. She also visited the Great Wall and other significant sites in China. “It was an incredible opportunity to go to China and use my language skills.” Anna had studied Mandarin Chinese at Southwest Junior High School and gained fluency in Spanish at LILA and the ongoing immersion classes at SWJH.

“Anna’s passion for language started at LILA,” her mother said. “LILA opened Anna’s eyes to the fact that she has a lot of linguistic talent. She has come to love different languages and cultures. I can say if it were not for LILA and the incredible inspiration she would not have had the opportunity to go to China with this program.” For more information about NSLI-Y scholarships, visit

• Synergy & Leadership Exchange Academic All-Stars
Students in Kristina Kofski’s sixth-grade class may be nominated for the Synergy & Leadership Exchange Academic All-Stars, an annual program that celebrates achievement and best practices in Minnesota schools, businesses, and communities. “All of the kids I've chosen have been for academic excellence in general,” said Profe Kristina. “These are three students who have really given their all the entire year, trying to make sure that their work always represents the best they're capable of, and, in some cases, making a huge improvement through hard work and effort on their part.” She emphasized that this is not a competition in the classroom, mainly because so many of her students would be eligible for this nomination. “The fact that I don’t nominate others doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve it as well,” she explained. “I focus on selecting three students who really distinguished themselves.”
2014: Kira Bergman, Kristine Murphy, Grace Sieber
2013: Mollie Barnes, Leala Lundmark, Will Nelson
2011: Megan Palmer, Ireland Sarracco, Heidi Wiese

Sports Accomplishments

• Rachel Chatwin, Forest Lake High School Class of 2015
Rachel is currently a 2014 Girls Swim and Dive Captain. All-Conference four times in high school swimming and voted Team MVP the past two years, Rachel represented Forest Lake at the state meet in 2012. She has the fastest time recorded for FLHS since 1996 in the 100 freestyle (55.74) as well as the fastest breaststroke time (1:09.96). Rachel has also served as the Captain for the past two years for the FLHS Synchronized Swimming team, qualifying four years for the state meet and named All-Conference three times. She swims competitively for North Suburban Aquatic Club, too, and has qualified for the past three state MN USA Swim meets. A National Honor Society member, Rachel is part of the EMID Community Partnership at school and volunteers at Fairview Lakes Medical Center.

• Maia Peterson, Forest Lake High School Class of 2015
“My high school athletic career has been devoted mainly to soccer,” said Maia. “In the fall of 2010, as a timid eighth-grader I turned to my LILA learner attributes and decided to do something audaz: I tried out for the high school soccer team and ended up making varsity!” Freshmen year, Maia was a starting fullback for the varsity squad. Toward the end of her sophomore year, she was named a co-captain, and was awarded Defensive MVP, an All-Conference Honorable Mention, and the Ranger Award, which is given to the athlete who best exemplifies what it means to be a Ranger on and off the field. Junior year, she continued as captain and helped lead the team to the quarterfinal section game. That spring, Maia lettered in track and field and received her second Ranger Award. She was captain again for her senior season and earned her fifth letter for the sport. She was honored at the Nov. 6, 2014, banquet with the MVP award, named All-Conference and was nominated for All-State. Outside of soccer and track, Maia has lettered multiple times in Weight Training and academics. She is also a member of the National Honor Society.

• Sydney Norcross, Forest Lake High School Class of 2017
Sydney was named co-captain of the girls' Forest Lake High School Alpine Skiing team as a sophomore. Her coach, Grant Lindemer, said that captains are "selected on their social and communication skills."

• Swimmers Ben Chatwin and Duncan Johnson, both LILA alumni, broke the Forest Lake all-time records in the 200 freestyle and 50 freestyle respectively, and competed at state in their events in the spring of 2015. Ben and Duncan also tied in the 100 freestyle, breaking, and now sharing the school's all-time record, qualifying to move on to state in the 100 free as well. Additionally, Duncan and Ben, along with Corey Bahr and Brad Youngquist, broke the Forest Lake all-time records for both the 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay and moved on to compete at state in both events. The next time you walk into the SWJH pool look up at that board! Other LILA swimmers on the 2014-15 swim team, which took first place at the Duluth meet, include Rowan Wagner and Liam Hunter.

Other Alumni News & Updates

• 2015-2019 Newcomb Scholar Cohort, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
Margaret Maurer, a LILA 6th-grade graduate in 2009, has been named to the Class of 2019 Newcomb Scholars at Tulane University. Hundreds of freshmen apply to join this prestigious all-female academic group each year; 20 are selected. This intellectual community leverages rigorous research and study over the four years at Tulane to explore ways of learning and producing knowledge, challenging and empowering members to be innovative and compassionate leaders in the 21st century.

 • Madeline Emholz is studying to become an elementary school teacher at the University of Minnesota. She returned to LILA for a few days in 2014 as a volunteer while pursuing her degree.