Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.
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Svenja Kraut had never been to the United States before coming here four months ago. The 10th grade exchange student from Northern Germany said she was inspired by seeing a friend go on an exchange trip. "It was always like a dream, but I never thought of really doing it," Kraut said. "Then I thought, why not?" Kraut, who, at home, attends a gymnasium — the most advanced type of secondary school found in Germany — said school is very different here in River Falls.
The first baby of 2017 born at Allina Health River Falls Area Hospital made his appearance at 8:58 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3. Nolan Varo, weighing 7 pounds, 6 ounces, and measuring 20.25 inches long, was born in the Birth Center to proud parents Adam and Nancy Varo of River Falls. Nurses presented the family with a gift basket of baby items contributed by the Birth Center and auxiliary members in celebration of being the first newborn of 2017.
Many River Falls Municipal Utilities customers lost power due to a late night outage Thursday, Jan. 12. Utility Director Kevin Westhuis said the outage was due to a malfunctioning relay in one of the city's substations.
Thanks to the work of a city intern, there is a new way to explore River Falls. Intern Tyler Galde has created two new Story Maps. The interactive websites allow people to explore the city from the comfort of their own home, or from afar, or take a walking tour of the city.
"I'll be home for Christmas," the old song promises. Local resident Katie Chaffee thought she'd found a home for "Jack," a cat her sister had found and rescued, for Christmas. Another River Falls resident, Jennifer Gunderson, and her mom Jackie Heller thought they'd found the same cat a home as a companion animal for an elderly woman in the assisted living facility where Heller works. Unfortunately, the assisted living facility's regulations won't allow the resident to adopt Jack, and Jack is once again without a home.
Servant of the Shepherd Church, 103 N. 4th St., has been running its sober house program next door for about 17 years. The goal is to help recently sober people rebuild their lives, say house managers Pam Norton and Kevin Patrick, and Servant of the Shepherd Pastor Frank Lukasiewicz. "It's a safe place to learn how to be part of a family again," Patrick said. "They learn how to get their life literally back together, because once they've gone through the gamut of addiction, they have an aftermath of like a tornado."
The River Falls School District has done well, so far, with promoting diversity, says Superintendent Jamie Benson. "We would be remiss to suggest or pretend there isn't' always more that could or should be done," he said. "We have room to grow and learn and ways to improve in all areas of what we (have) done as a school district." Diversity is one area that the school district will try to improve on going forward. To that end, the district has formed a diversity committee, chaired by Benson and Jennifer Peterson, director of academic services.
Sofia Font Rodriguez was well-prepared when she came to River Falls for the beginning of the school year. "I did a lot of research," she said. "I look(ed) on YouTube. Every video I could of the high school, and of the town, all the pictures I could find, and also what were the activities I could do here, or how can you get to Minneapolis." Font Rodriguez comes from Aiguafreda (a city in the province of Barcelona), Spain. Her home is in a distinct region called Catalonia, that's a bit different from the rest of Spain. Her first language is actually Catalan, not Spanish.
They may not have been sure yet how they'd done in their Politics of American Cities class, but last Tuesday a group of UW-River Falls students did know their project had passed—at least as far as the City Council was concerned. Professor Neil Kraus's Politics of American Cities Class was split into groups, and each was assigned to work with a different municipality. One of those groups, lead by student Alex Saxe, worked with the city of River Falls to create a new policy.
As Americans are "dreaming of a White Christmas," and snow is covering the ground, River Falls High School exchange student Muneeb Kamran is enjoying his snowy experience. "The snow has been fun," he said. "I haven't seen snowfall before coming to U.S. and it was a pretty good experience." "The first time it snowed...it was night, but me and my host brothers went out and built a snowman." When Kamran came to the U.S. from Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, for his exchange trip, he hoped to find find diversity, and business learning.