Meet Our New Facilitators
Nine new facilitators finished the training last month to join our Spark! team. The nine community members below will help present workshops in over 400 K-8 classrooms in Olmsted County, teaching kids to recognize and stand up to prejudice of all kinds. Welcome!
Ahmed Hassan is originally from Somalia, but came to the U.S. in 1996 due to the long running civil war in his home country. He moved to Rochester a year later, where he has worked as an interpreter, a CDL driver, and a direct care professional at Howry Residential Services. He holds a degree in pharmacology from Somalia and is currently finishing a second degree in human services. Ahmed has four children, three boys and a girl, and he hopes that his work as a facilitator will help teach them and others how to value others' cultures.
Angie Dieterich is originally from Iowa and moved to Rochester to work at the Post-Bulletin. She hold a journalism degree from Drake University in Des Moines. After twenty years in the newspaper business, Angie made a change and took a position in membership at the Rochester Area Family Y. She also works part time at Trader Joe's. She has rescued two cats and enjoys pet sitting for friends. Angie was drawn to become a Spark! facilitator because she enjoys working with youth and believes in the Diversity Council's mission of creating a welcoming and inclusive community through education. Angie was one of our 2014 Champions of Diversity!
Crystal Sobotta is originally from Nelson, Wisconsin, and she moved to Rochester 3 years ago. She now works at the Rochester Area Family Y as the Aquatics Director. She owns three horses named Dakota, Paris, and Trigger. Crystal was drawn to the Spark! program because she strongly believes in the mission of the program and enjoys working with youth.
Leslie Gorfine is a John Marshall grad from Rochester who attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. She has worked in the AVID program (Advancement via Individual Determination) at two Minneapolis schools as well as at Riverside and Gage Elementary schools in Rochester, and at the Upward Bound college readiness program at RCTC. Leslie once won a Simpsons trivia contest. She became a Spark! facilitator to "help educate kids in our community about the good things that come from diversity."
Philip Woodward grew up on a farm in Dover and currently lives in Pine Island. He has worked as a dairy herd manager, as owner and operator of a farm service business, and in finance at IBM, among other jobs. He finished his business degree at the age of 50 and currently works as a substitute teacher. Phil and his wife also have a business called Junk Devotion, which repurposes old furniture and farm equipment as decorative or practical items. Substitute teaching is what drew Phil to the Diversity Council. He says, "I knew this was a place for me to help educate children and adults on the need to understand and learn how to respect other cultures if we are going to survive as a society."
Robyn Wood is of mixed Hispanic and European background and was raised with the traditions of both cultures. She feels lucky to have family and friends from many backgrounds and sees her life as a journey of learning. Robyn currently works as a probation officer with Olmsted County. Along with Angie Dieterich, she was one of our 2014 Champions of Diversity!
Ruth Van Vugt is originally from Ohio, but has lived in Rochester since 1971. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in music education and taught music in the public schools for forty years. Now retired, she sees her new work as a Spark! facilitator as an opportunity to continue her love of interacting with students and to work for a purpose she believes in. Ruth is joining her husband Bill, who has also been a Spark! facilitator for many years.
Sangeeta Sethi was born and raised in India and moved to Rochester in 1991. As a homemaker, she has devoted much of her time to volunteer activities, including teaching in the local Hindi school. She has also taught Indian cooking through community ed and loves trying out recipes from all kinds of cuisines. Sangeeta was drawn to work as a Spark! facilitator through her son, whose work in underperforming schools with Teach For America made her realize that all children, no matter what their background, can be transformed into successful adults with the right guidance, education, and compassion. This realization gave her the desire to do something to help ensure that children in our community are raised free of discrimination and with every opportunity to pursue their dreams.
Sherri Smoltz is from St. Charles. She attended the MN School of Business in Rochester in the Business Administration Assistant program and has worked in the retail and service industry. Sherri's son, who has special needs and struggled to fit in, gave her a desire to become a Spark! facilitator. She also looks forward to the opportunity to explore a new career path. Sherri enjoys learning about new subjects and singing in a women's barbershop quartet.
The Diversity Council is looking for four people to serve as advisors for Student Leaders Creating Change, our after school anti-bullying program for high schoolers. Successful applicants will receive 20 hours of required training (paid). You must be available to commit to at least one weekly 2-hour session throughout the 2014-2015 school year. Apply by September 16. Application.