by Lorrie Ham
A group of Mound Westonka High School seniors visited Meisel Hardware Specialties in Spring Park recently, where they met with owner Paul Meisel. The students listened intently as Meisel took them on a tour of the facility and explained how he built his business, which develops plans and provides hardware for woodworking enthusiasts from the ground up.
The field trip was just one of the visits the students will make this year as part of the Mound Westonka Rotary’s STRIVE Program. The program focuses on providing support and incentive for students to improve their academic achievement and realize their goals for further post-secondary education. Students are invited to participate in the program as juniors via a letter from the Rotary.
“After the letter is a 30-minute open meeting where we talk about what we will do,” said Mound Westonka Rotary Program Chair Bill Pinegar. “There are a dozen meetings in the second semester of their junior year where we use ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens’ as the backdrop for our discussions.”
During their senior year, the group takes one field trip a month to different places where people work—sometimes it's a business and sometimes it is a city office or other type of organization, Pinegar explained.
“In all cases it is where folks are fulfilling their careers,” he added. “We talk with all kinds of people learning what they do now and how and why they chose to be there.”
Students who accept the STRIVE challenge pledge their commitment to good attendance, participation in class and respectful treatment of others. Their efforts are recognized at the end of the year with scholarship opportunities provided by the Mound Westonka Rotary.
“Strive has been an excellent part of the MWHS culture for many years and often it's participants and supporters go unnoticed by many of us,” said MWHS guidance counselor Ann Baumann. “With the help from Rotary, namely Bill Pinegar, students are given a chance to share their dreams about their futures in a really safe and practical environment. Rotary members provide opportunities in the community that just couldn't otherwise be given to students in our traditional learning environment.”
During last week’s field trip, Paul Meisel, a former teacher, explained to the students how he used to develop project plans for his own industrial arts classes based on projects his students were interested in building. Other teachers liked the plans, which he was happy to share. He realized that there was a niche for his plans and his business was born, starting in the basement of his home and eventually growing into a world-wide catalog mail order business.
“I really love how Rotary works so hard to connect students with real-life situations which help these students imagine what it would be like to work and contribute to their community,” said Baumann. “MWHS is very lucky to have such supportive organizations like Rotary.”
Now in its 14th year locally, the Mound Westonka Rotary, MWHS, North Hennepin Community College, North Hennepin Tech College and Normandale Community College join together again as “Partners in Excellence” to continue the STRIVE Program.