The Free Press

MANKATO — A group of student social justice advocates, a young entrepreneur, two teachers, a mentor of teachers and a safety director are the 2021 Mankato Spirit of Youth honorees.

The Mankato Community Education and Recreation Advisory Council annually recognizes outstanding young people and individuals and organizations that support youth. A committee accepts nominations and selects honorees.

This year’s award recipients are:

• Moving our Futures Forward leaders Indya Campbell, Aspen Clarksean, Elli Kim, Maya Englehorn, Madelyn Vosburg, Ronan Corley and Jolee Slechta: The West High School students organized a group to lead events and discussions about social justice and racial equity.

• Dakota Meadows Middle School sixth grader Evie Bottner: She started her own business helping her neighbors reduce waste by composting.

• Washington Elementary School second grade teacher Melissa Larkin: “She always finds the positive in everything and her patience and dedication have made a huge difference in my children’s lives,” wrote nominator Vanessa Loften.

• Kayla Vogelsang, English language learner teacher at Roosevelt Elementary: She is an advocate for students’ needs in school and beyond, her nominator wrote. In addition to collaborative teaching, she packs the food sent home via the BackPack Food Program and leads the school’s participation in the Climb to Feed Kids fundraiser.

• Franklin Elementary School teacher mentor coach Tabatha Miller: She co-founded a group to help staff better teach and mentor students of color and their families. During distance learning, she helped develop a child care program for essential workers and helped the ACES staff support the students academically.

• Scott Hogen, the district’s director of facilities and safety, has been a leader in the district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He works with district staff and community and state health partners on COVID-19 case response and mitigation strategies.

A virtual awards presentation will be posted on Community Education and Recreation social media pages on Wednesday.

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