The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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January 6, 2010

Pathfinder Awards presented

MANKATO — A college librarian, a high school English teacher, a Somali student and a coffee shop are this year’s Mankato recipients of Pathfinder Awards.

The annual citations presented Wednesday by the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Board recognize individuals and organizations that, in the spirit of King, are action takers in the struggle for equal treatment, human rights, and nonviolence.

The 2010 recipients:

-- Lisa Spieker said she broke down in tears when informed of her selection. The Rasmussen College librarian was cited for her work with the college’s diversity committee and her untiring devotion to educating the campus and community through displays, speaker panels and open discussions based on books and movies.

“Lisa sets an air and expectation of tolerance and respect from staff and students,” board members said. “(She) has created a culture where people can ask questions, respect and be respected, and learn from each other.”

n Sally Kvebak teaches English and U.S. culture to newcomer immigrant students at Mankato East High School. She helps students develop academic skills as well as social and problem-solving skills.

She also mediates for students when there are conflicts or cultural misunderstandings.

Said the board, “Sally teaches students the skills that they need to feel empowered. She motivates them to do their best (and) instills in them the value of higher education and encourages them to succeed.”

-- Somalian refugee Aish Ali, a Mankato East High senior, is this year’s recipient of the Young Pathfinder Award.

Ali was cited for his abilities as a peacemaker and school leader.

“Aish is very respectful of where he has been but is embracing American culture and values,” award selectors said. “He uses his bilingual skills to serve as an interpreter for students, parents and staff.”

Ali is active in the group SHINE (Seeking Harmony in Neighborhoods Everywhere) and spearheaded an ethnic-food tailgate party, preparing most of the food himself.

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