People and Places – July 2017

Prep sports wrap up successful year Minnesota prep athletes with disabilities wrapped up the 2016-2017 academic year with state tournaments […]

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Prep sports wrap up successful year

Minnesota prep athletes with disabilities wrapped up the 2016-2017 academic year with state tournaments in adapted softball, bowling and track and field.

The track and field tournament at Hamline University June 9-10 was the final event until fall. Athletes in Class A and AA competed in wheelchair events. In the Class A discus throw, Luke Johnston of Medford placed first, Adrian Gravelle of LCWM/Nicollet placed second and Ben Bode of St. Peter placed third. Peyton Gunnarson of Lewiston-Altura won the 100 meter dash wheelchair race with Gravelle second and Danny Lilya of Moose Lake/Willow River in third. The three placed in the same order in the 200 meter wheelchair dash.

In Class AA, Ben Mathiowetz of New Ulm took first place in the discus throw. Lilly Stiernagle of Maple River won the wheelchair division girls’ shot put for Class A. The Class AA winner is Mitzi Probst of White Bear Lake.

The adapted softball and bowling tournaments have CI and PI divisions, for athletes with cognitive and physical disabilities. Bowling also has an autism spectrum disorder or ASD Division.

The adapted softball tournaments at Capon Rapids High School ended with a traditional powerhouse champion and a first-time winner. In the CI Division, St. Cloud Area made its first state tournament trip a memorable one with a 10-7 victory over the Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville Blazing Cats in the championship game. St. Cloud Area Sluggers began playing adapted softball in 2007. But from 2010-16, the program was discontinued.

This is the first time a Greater Minnesota team has ever won the CI Division title. Junior first baseman Dayton Wienjas had four hits and scored three runs for the Sluggers. Eighth-grade shortstop Natalya Rawley had a home run for the Blazing Cats.

St. Cloud Area topped Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville and Chaska/Chanhassen/Prior Lake to get to the title game.

The Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville Rams took third place, with a five-run third inning en route to a 13-5 victory over Anoka-Hennepin. Junior infielder Danziel Marshall had four hits and scored four runs for the Rams.

In the consolation final, Osseo outlasted Chaska/Chanhassen/Prior Lake/Shakopee for a 14-13 victory.

2016 CI champ North Suburban and South Washington County were also in the tournament.

The CI Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team includes St. Cloud Area athletes Wienjas, Frank Cross and Jordan Williams; Tyrell Frank Cross, Lucas Petrich, Cobi Vettrus and C.J. Weydert, Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville; Cole Brambilla, Osseo; Dylan Theroux, and Cole Denny, Anoka-Hennepin; Gordon Erickson and Danziel Marshall, Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville.

Longtime power Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka won the PI Division for a record 10th time following a 10-7 victory over Anoka-Hennepin.

The title game was the fourth meeting this season for the teams. Anoka- Hennepin held a 2-to-1 edge in those matchups.

The Robins flew to an 8-1 lead entering the bottom of the fifth inning before Anoka-Hennepin stormed back. But the Robins pulled away with two timely runs in the top of the seventh inning and a strong defense.

Eighth-grade outfielder Marcus Brady and junior infielder Brendan Bosker-Elliott had RBI singles in the top of the seventh that helped clinch the victory for the Robins. They both finished with three hits apiece.

It was the 26th state championship for Robins coach Marcus Onsum, who has also built an adapted athletics dynasty in soccer and floor hockey. “At the beginning of the season, I figured we might be good enough to win the consolation final, at best,” he said. “Soon, I could tell, though that this team was going to accomplish so much more. They came together as a team and came up big when we needed them. This one is really special.”

Rochester outlasted Dakota United for a 16-13 victory for third place. Dakota United was defending champion.

In the consolation final, Osseo raced to a 14-1 victory over Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville behind eighth-grade pitcher Kirby Gilbertson.

Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka defeated Rochester and Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville to get to the title game. Minneapolis South was also in the tournament.

Members of the PI All-Tournament Team are Bosker-Elliott, Andy Hanson and Vincent Luu, Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka; Gilbertson, Osseo; Grant Drew, Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville; Riley Wisniewski and Cooper Chelstrom, Dakota United; Sean Healy and Calvin Gerdt, Rochester and Kai France, Joey Manion and Tyler Ezell, Anoka-Hennepin.

Adapted bowling had its state tournament at Brunswick Zone in Brooklyn Center. None of the defending individual, doubles or team champions repeated.

The ASD Division is growing in popularity, with more than 50 athletes in boys’ singles alone. The Lakers of Wayzata/Minnetonka tallied a 27-pin team victory over runners-up from Alexandria Area for the team title. Members of this year’s winning squad are ninth-graders Alex Arkhipenkov and Grayson Barenburg and seniors Quinn Schomburg and Nick Desautels. The Scarlets of Mankato West finished in third place.

Anoka-Hennepin seventh-grader Maddy Oblander took top honors in girls’ singles with a score of 431. Abigail Erickson of St. Peter was close behind at 428. Anoka-Hennepin’s Katelyn Sedgewick placed third.

Seventh-grader Elijah Rosado of Moorhead claimed the boys’ singles crown with a score of 480. St. Paul Highland Park’s Frimosa Said was second and Anoka-Hennepin’s Gavin Sigafoos placed third.

In doubles competition, Mankato West sophomores Stone Bridges and Conner Bridges won the title. Teams from Anoka-Hennepin finished in both second and third place. Alex Purinton and Maddy Oblander were runners-up and Sigfoos and Alex Semanko placed third.

The Mankato West Scarlets won the CI division title, with a final score of 1,653.

This year’s winning team members are eighth-grader Bryce Nelson, juniors Henry Claussen and Duol Lul, and senior Isaiah Becker.

Teams from Tartan of Oakdale and Simley of Inver Grove Heights placed second and third.

Austin senior Tianna Weigel won her first championship in the girls’ singles competition with her 466 total. Anoka- Hennepin’s Shanna Betts was runner-up, and  Mahtomedi’s Phoebe Taylor was third.

In the boys’ singles, Monticello senior Carson Dehmer won with a 582 total. Defending champion Elton Gruber of Alexandria Area was runner-up. Hopkins’ Fraase Holden placed third.

Seniors Perry Thomas and Domminic Alexander of North of North St. Paul earned top honors in the doubles competition with score of 861. Monticello’s Dehmer and Justin Garaghty claimed runner-up honors. Alexandria Area’s Robert Goor and Jonathon Jahnke placed third.

Minneapolis South won its first PI Division title with an impressive 1,835 total. Winning team members are ninth-grader Jontelle Johnson, and seniors Noah Novacek, Shafi Abdulahi, and Hanna Bolstrom. Albany placed second and North of North St. Paul was third.

Ninth-grader Intizor Isoeva of Wayzata/Minnetonka won the girls’ singles title at 496, topping Monticello junior Emily Miller. Austin’s Tyra Wiles was third.

In boys’ singles, Anoka-Hennepin ninth-grader Kevin Prenosil won with a 488 total. Logan Farnsworth of Austin and Ty Mashuga of Anoka-Hennepin placed second and third.

Eighth-grader CeCe Devries and senior Kylie Haney of Austin claimed the doubles title, at 935. St. Peter’s Sabrina Kopischke and Kiersten Stierlen earned runner-up honors. Zachary Taylor-Thelen and Hunter Shankle of Monticello placed third.



The Arc Minnesota welcomes Munson

Alicia Munson has joined The Arc Minnesota as the new senior policy director, replacing Steve Larson.

Munson brings a wealth of public policy experience and expertise. As a leader in the 5% Campaign, she was an integral part of campaign’s successful effort in 2014 to get much-needed funding for direct care staff wages, spearheading grassroots efforts across Minnesota. She is also a strong ally of self-advocates in their efforts to advocate for public policy change, having supported self-advocates and managed public policy efforts for seven years at Opportunity Partners.

Munson also brings skills in public policy communications and has served in leadership positions for the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) as co-chair of the Grassroots Committee and member of the MN-CCD board), ARRM and the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation. Her skills and efforts made her a worthy recipient of The Arc Minnesota’s Luther Granquist Systems Change Award in 2014.

Most recently, Munson served as government affairs director for the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association.


MOHR honors its outstanding direct support professionals

The group MOHR recently gave its 2017 awards for outstanding direct service providers, to honor those who demonstrate exceptional performance in serving individuals with disabilities.

Also selected was a Tip of the Spear Award winner. The award is given to an individual who inspires others to take
action benefiting people with disabilities, is Pam Gonnella. She is a parent, advocate, and leader of the Best Life Alliance. “For the last two years, I’ve been working at the legislature … trying to explain to them why (direct support professionals) are so important to the success of my daughter,” Gonnella said.

The Employment Service – Job Coach Greater Minnesota Award went to Megan Wark, Polk County DAC, East Grand Forks. Wark said her job is highly rewarding and that she truly loves coming to work. “We are very blessed,” she said. “I get to get these guys out in the community more and it seems like that’s what they enjoy most.”

The Employment Service – Job Coach Metro was given to Lisa Vitkus, Opportunity Partners. Vitkus likes the variety, flexibility, and mobility of her job. Growing up, she learned that finding a job isn’t necessarily about the pay, but enjoying the work. “It’s a ‘following your bliss’ kind of approach,” she said. “Finding something you care about … it’s about enjoying what you do and having fun doing it.”

The Enrichment Focus Metro Award went to Tammy Schexnaider, Partnership Resources. Schexnaider said compassion and patience are important skills she uses in her job. Helping people to see their own potential to reach their goals and dreams is another aspect. “It is important for them to realize that they have choices and that they are able to blossom,” she said.

The Enrichment Focus Greater Minnesota Award went to Darcy Meagher, Functional Industries. “I go because I like what I do. I like helping people with disabilities. That’s my way of life,” said Meagher. She said the participants she serves are always in her heart, and that she thinks about them constantly. One of the people in her group is her 21-year-old daughter.


State official named to key post at human services

Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Emily Piper has appointed Santo Cruz to be Deputy Commissioner for External Relations at DHS, effective immediately.

Cruz will oversee the Office of Inspector General as well as a number of external relations divisions he currently supervises as an assistant commissioner for DHS. The office manages financial fraud and abuse investigations; licenses programs such as family child care, adult foster care, and mental health centers; and conducts background studies on people who apply to work in these settings.

“Santo has a unique blend of experience that makes him particularly suited for this role, including in both state and county government,” Piper said.

Immediately prior to joining DHS in 2016, Cruz held a number of positions at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. At the Minnesota Department of Commerce, he provided legal advice and counsel to all areas of the agency, including divisions regulating financial institutions, energy, and insurance. In addition to his experience in state service, he served as both a prosecutor and press secretary for Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

Cruz holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and four daughters.


Guild Incorporated names new leader

St. Paul-based nonprofit, Guild Incorporated, which helps individuals with mental illness in the Twin Cities metro area, announced that its Board of Directors has selected Julie Bluhm, LICSW, as the organization’s next executive director. Bluhm will begin on July 24, succeeding Grace Tangjerd Schmitt, who will retire after leading the organization for more than 25 years.

“We looked at a number of very compelling candidates during the search process, and after interviewing and getting to know several of them, we concluded without hesitation that Julie’s background in social work, her experience in and knowledge of the industry, and her obvious passion for the value of community mental health services, make her not only a perfect fit for the Guild of today but also an ideal partner to help build the Guild of tomorrow,” said Mike Sampson, chairman of Guild Incorporated’s Board of Directors and a partner at Maslon LLP. Bluhm holds a bachelor’s degree in family social science and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota.

She is currently the director of clinical innovation for Hennepin Health, leading the implementation and refinement of the Hennepin Health care model and integration of social service delivery to improve care and reduce costs for members served by their integrated care network. Prior to Hennepin Health, Bluhm spent several years working in the mental health field, providing direct care and serving in managerial roles.

“At Hennepin Health, I was working a lot with hospitals and clinics, trying to figure out how to meet individuals’ needs outside of a clinic or hospital setting, looking at the social determinants of health,” said Bluhm. “I want to go back to serving people – helping people lead the lives that they want to live, and I don’t think that there’s any question that’s what Guild does.”

Grace Tangjerd Schmitt expressed confidence in the board’s selection. “Julie’s person-centered approach to services and her experience in health reform through Hennepin Health’s accountable care model are tremendous assets for Guild’s future.”

“Through Grace’s leadership, the spirit of constant innovation has become an indelible part of the culture of Guild Incorporated, and it will continue to serve us well as the health care landscape continues to change,” Sampson said of Grace’s upcoming retirement.

“I have admired Guild for years,” said Bluhm. “I am humbled to have the opportunity to continue to build on Grace’s legacy.”

Guild Incorporated helps individuals with mental illness lead quality lives, with an array of recovery-focused, community treatment and rehabilitation services for individuals 16 and older who have serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder.  On any given day, Guild staff serves nearly 900 individuals in the Twin Cities metro area.


Two Minnesota psychiatrists honored by NAMI

Minnesota psychiatrists Eduardo Colon and Dionne Hart were selected to receive Exemplary Psychiatrist Awards by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The awards recognize psychiatrists who have “gone the extra mile” in caring for their patients and providing outstanding treatment. Both psychiatrists were nominated for the national awards by NAMI Minnesota.

Colon is chief of psychiatry at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis since 2016 and has been a longtime instructor at the University of Minnesota. He has worked to reduce stigma and to try to solve the bottleneck at HCMC, which just opened a new crisis home to help alleviate the problem.

“NAMI Minnesota often is on panels with Dr. Colon to provide the community with a balance of information from a clinical and advocacy point of view,” said NAMI Minnesota’s executive director Sue Abderholden. “Dr. Colon also developed its Psychiatry Family Resource Center with input and collaboration with NAMI Minnesota.”

Hart is a psychiatry specialist working in Rochester who was also named Psychiatrist of the Year by the Minnesota Psychiatric Society in 2014. She has run an advocacy organization called “Care from the Hart” and provides psychiatric education and a voice for meeting the need of minorities with mental health issues.

“Dr. Hart has been an incredible leader in the state for improved mental health care. She strongly believes in NAMI’s mission and seeks out opportunities to partner with NAMI Minnesota to provide education and support. She has been a voice in closing disparities in communities of color,” Abderholden said. “There are few psychiatrists advocating for mental health treatment in the federal prison.




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