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Rotary conference comes to River Falls

The conference will be held Thursday, April 12 - Saturday, April 14 at the UW-River Falls University Center. <i>Submitted image</i>

A familiar face will be returning to River Falls Friday, April 13. Former Westside Elementary principal from 1986-98, Dr. Jerene Mortenson, will speak at the District 5960 Rotary Conference luncheon.

Mortenson will review some of her contributions to creating educational opportunities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Working alongside her son, Greg, her efforts include programs such as "Pennies for Peace," which started at Westside and continues to be supported by Westside students.

Mortenson was selected to speak because she personifies this year's conference theme "Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things."

Prior to coming to River Falls, Mortenson lived in Tanzania. While there she opened the still running Moshi International School.

During her years at Westside she invited her son to speak to her students about his work building schools in Pakistan.

The students were so moved by his presentation that "Pennies for Peace," initially called "Pennies for Pakistan," began to take shape.

That year students gave 62,345 pennies to the effort. Since the initiation of the program in 1994 it has grown to include thousands of schools worldwide, including River Falls schools.

District Governor Judy Freund encourages the community to come April 13. Students from Meyer Middle School will also be attending Mortenson's presentation.

Conference comes back

Past conferences have been held in River Falls and now it is returning.

The conference will be held Thursday, April 12 - Saturday, April 14 at the UW-River Falls University Center.

"We are very excited for this conference -- it has been two years of work," said River Falls Rotary member Connie Foster. "We have a lot of time into it."

Before Mortenson's presentation there will be a Middle-Eastern buffet served.

According to Foster, Mortenson will also be holding a "breakout session" for those who want to speak with her.

Other breakout sessions include: information on polio eradication, a group study exchange from Brazil and more.

The evening keynote speaker will be Madeline Uraneck, who will talk about being a global citizen in the 21st century.

After Uraneck speaks, Rotarians will be encouraged to head out and enjoy River Falls. Freund hopes people will say "hi' and welcome the over 250 guests coming to the area.

A movie, "Anna's Playground," depicting children and families living in troubled situations will be shown on Saturday.

Ending the conference will be a youth-exchange-student country fair, which will highlight the countries of exchange students currently within Rotary District 5960's area.

"They (the exchange students) are going to do an exhibit. They will have info about their home countries, including food, maps, dress, and share their culture," said Freund.

District 5960 has 3,300 members in 64 Rotary Clubs and four Rotaract Clubs in Minnesota and Wisconsin, including the River Falls and Hudson rotary clubs.

Mortenson's presentation will be held on Friday, April 13 from 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. at the ballroom at the UWRF University Center. Interested community members should register by contacting the Rotary District Office at 651-636-9054 or More information about the district conference is available at -- click on "What's New" and then click on "2012 District Conference."

Jillian Dexheimer

Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.