A new program recently started for students of Phillips Elementary School will provide students with an additional source of food and snacks over the weekend.
Food insecurity — whether it be a shortage of food or the uncertainty of where the next meal will come from — is a fact of life for many local children. According to the Department for Public Instruction, 44.8% of Phillips Elementary students in 2017-18 were classed as economically disadvantaged.
The program, which was started by student guidance counselors Caroline Corbett and Rebecca Macholl, is a volunteer project operating with school support. Initially formed with a donation of 200 backpacks and a $500 grant from Flambeau Hospital's Living the Mission committee,
the program will be sustained in the future by monetary and food donations.
The program has already received the support of several groups and individuals, including the local clergy association, Anchor of Truth Church, and food donated by PES staff.
In the weeks since its formation, there have already been 50 kids enrolled in the program with the approval of their families. Students receive backpacks with snacks and food on Fridays, which they can take home for the weekend. The identity of the students participating in the program is kept confidential, even within the school.
"The program has grown each week," said Corbett. "We see food shortages affecting student performance, and as a staff, we have been focusing on that division of performance between low socioeconomic and stable economic. We've been trying to work to solve that and make sure everyone has a level playing field to allow them to be successful in school, regardless of their economic status."
People interested in learning more about the program can contact Corbett at 715-339-3864 extension 3018 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone interested in supporting the program should coordinate with Corbett before making a donation.
In 2005 at the age of 50, Bernice Ende mounted her horse and rode south, starting an odyssey that would take her 2,000 miles away from her starting point of Trego, Montana, to Edgewood, New Mexico. The experience that unfolded over the following five months would have been the journey of a lifetime for most people, but for Ende, it was just the beginning.
Over the past 14 years, Ende has essentially adopted the life of a nomad, riding 30,000 miles through the United States and Canada. While she still owns a log cabin in northwestern Montana, Ende spends the vast majority of her life traveling with her horses, constantly outdoors, ever on the move.
Ende's life wasn't always this way.
Before her first ride in 2005, Ende grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm, riding horses from the time she could walk. When she grew up, Ende pursued an education in ballet, teaching dance for her entire career. In 1992, Ende moved from the west coast to Trego, Montana, where she opened a small dance school and began giving riding lessons and training horses.
Then it happened.
"I just suddenly had the realization that I had to move, had to change, had to do something," she said. Although horses and riding had been a lifelong passion, riding across the country had never been something she'd considered. Until now.
As Ende tells it, she saw a window of opportunity open and climbed through.
With nothing but her horse and her dog, Ende set off, aiming for New Mexico. The journey was exhausting, both physically and mentally. With a horse determined to return home to the safety of his pasture, Ende felt she couldn't safely take her hands off the reins. For two weeks, she never let go of her horse. The only way to keep them both sane was to keep moving, so they rode — 30, 40, 50 miles in a day. Ende recalls her legs collapsing when she tried to dismount. She slept in ditches. During the few hours of sleep she got in a night, the only thing that kept her warm was the body warmth of her faithful dog. Ende cried as she rode, often only able to focus on taking one step after another.
Yet, eventually, horse and human found an equilibrium. While that first long ride was a challenge from start to finish, Ende rode into New Mexico with the realization that she could never return to normal life. The experience had forever changed her.
"It was as if, at 50 years old, I had crawled into my own skin for the first time," she recalled.
Only months after returning to Montana, Ende was on the road again, which is where she has found herself ever since. Many things have changed since that first ride, both in how Ende personally approaches the experience and in the country she is riding through.
After 14 years of moving at a walking pace through the country — traveling east, west, north, and south — Ende has gotten a taste of the world she could never have experienced if she had stayed in her "normal" existence. She has experienced both true danger and true
kindness on the road, from encounters with grizzly bear and people pulling guns to perfect strangers welcoming her into their homes and greeting her with a hero's welcome.
Perhaps the most surprising realization for Ende is the fact that so many people long for such adventure in their own lives, and how many people she now brings vicariously on her rides.
"This is a unique way to travel in the modern world," she said. "Not just the physical experience, but the romantic image people hold in their head of a lone person crossing the country on horseback. I realized I wasn't just on a journey for myself — I am out here for hundreds, maybe thousands of other people who want this."
By her own choice, Ende's life is one different than most. Year-round, she lives outdoors with her horses, sleeping either in a tent or sometimes her horse trailer. Her days are not as simple as riding from one point to another; horses, even those well trained, are still powerful and unpredictable animals. Every moment Ende is riding, she must remain alert to the possibility of something unexpected occuring. While she maintains that the vast majority of her interactions with other humans are positive, Ende does carry a gun for her own safety.
As she rides, she navigates her routes along small highways using state maps that she carries with her. The routes she chooses are based on a litany of variables: weather, food, people, and road conditions.
In a life stripped to its bare essentials, Ende lives on about $3 a day. Every day she is on the road, her focus is in finding food and shelter. At the end of day, there are often quiet moments, when Ende might find time to read or write in her journal as her horses graze nearby.
"Living this way has changed my sense of space and time," explained Ende. "My awareness of other people, animals, the weather, has all broadened. To leave behind your walls and stalls, all the things that separate us, is an experience so unique and intimate."
Yet such freedom always comes at a price.
"It is a trade-off," Ende freely admitted. "To live like this, you give up community and relationships. I don't have a home or a job or a town. There are times when that's hard. But what I have in an expansive group of people that believe in what I'm doing, and have been so generous to me."
Perhaps the hardest experience Ende has had to face in all her many years of riding has been the loss of some of her longtime companions. Her faithful first companion, a mixbreed dog of unknown origins that answered to Claire Dog, passed away at the age of 16 in 2015 after covering 17,000 miles with Ende. While her first long-distance horse is happily retired on a Montana ranch, Ende lost her beloved second horse to a freak accident. A third horse passed away in retirement, and a fourth horse died of a brain parasite. Through the strong bonds forged after years and countless miles spent together, these are losses Ende will always carry.
The gumption that comes from a long line of strong and independent women is part of what has given Ende the inner strength required to stick with her way of life. Ende dedicates each of her rides to her mother, who she describes as a capable woman that always encouraged her daughter to seek adventure. In turn, Ende hopes that in some small way, her own journey will encourage other women to surmount challenges and become strong leaders.
Since October 2018, Ende has been on the road traveling once again, this time with a trailer for her horses and boxes of books in her truck as she tours the country sharing her story with others.
Ende's eight long-distance rides have become her first book, "Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback." Ende will be visiting the Park Falls Public Library at 6 p.m., Monday, April 8, to tell her story, which will also be the topic of a documentary released later this summer.
While Ende's journey has taken her across the country, it is still far from over.
"I think I still have several good rides left in me," she said. "At this point, my trips operate a lot more smoothly than they did when I started. I'm not sure where I'll be heading next, but I have a couple ideas in mind."
Phillips School District will be officially moving forward with increasing their current two-day four-year-old kindergarten program to four days a week, following a unanimous decision made by the school board at their regular meeting March 18. Board member Jim Adolph was not present at the meeting.
The district has been exploring the option of expanding its 4K offering in order to come more in line with what other local districts offer parents of young children in their areas. On March 7, the elementary held an information meeting for interested stakeholders which was attended by approximately 18 families. Elementary principal Dave Scholz reported that the session was well received and elementary staff was able to provide answers to any questions received during the program.
"I think it's something that will be positive for the district and the community as a whole," said Scholz.
District administrator Rick Morgan agreed, saying he was a strong believer this was the direction the district should be moving in.
Board member Tracie Burkart also noted that the business services committee had made a recommendation that the school board move forward with the expanded 4K program.
With the board's support of the expansion of the 4K program, Morgan noted that there will be regular updates provided to the school board.
Rural Virtual Academy contract extended
The school board voted to expand and extend their contract with the Rural Virtual Academy for Virtual Learning for the 2019-20 school year.
Morgan explained that with the change in contract, the district will see a very small net increase in revenue. If the school would like to change their contract with the RVA in the future, they would have the opportunity to do so after giving one year's notice.
Currently the district receives a $5,000 stipend for the teacher who provides oversight of RVA students in the Phillips School District.
There are currently eight full time students enrolled in the RVA through the Phillips School District, and several students also take foreign language classes through the program. High school principal Colin Hoogland noted that there may be additional opportunities for students through the program as well.
The first organizational meeting of the new facility action committee — which is tackling
the issue of how best to solve the elementary building needs in the most cost-effective manner possible — was held Feb. 27, with approximately 17 participants in attendance. Morgan reported that the discussion was largely organizational, and that the committee would get into greater depth with the issue in upcoming meetings. The second meeting of the committee was held March 20. Regular reports on the committee's findings and discussion will be provided to the school board in future meetings over the coming months.
Severe winter weather, including either snowfall or frigid temperatures, resulted in six snow days being taken by students of the Phillips School District this year. This has necessitated the addition of a regular school day to be scheduled on Monday, April 22 — originally planned as a day off follow ing the Easter holiday. Professional staff and teachers aides will be scheduled to work an additional day on June 6, which will not be a school day for students. Teachers will also work June 7, although aides will not be required to do so.
In addition, there has been some flexible schedule restructuring utilized by teachers to help make up any remaining lost time.
The graduation date will not be affected by these changes.
The school board took the time to recognize several different businesses, organizations and individuals who have supported the school with either cash donations for specific activities or projects, material donations including food pantry items, and grant funding through the AnnMarie Foundation.
The school board approved the retirements of four longtime employees of the district, including technology education teacher Tim Brown who was employed by the district for 32 years, kindergarten teacher Patricia Kaliska who was employed 29 years, bus driver Kathleen Severson who was employed 40.5 years, and bus driver Clarence (Ed) Riley who was employed 36 years. The resignations of two employees — paraprofessional Patrick Croy, an employee of eight years, and cook Leanne Benson, an employee of 1.5 years — were also accepted.
The school is currently recruiting for six positions: Future Business Leaders of America advisor, world language teacher, paraprofessional, speech and language pathologist, and two bus drivers.
Students of the month
The following students were recognized as students of the month by the school board for their positive behavior: second grader Cecilia Lorenz, fourth grader Preston Staples, sixth grader Caitlin Pesko, seventh grader Leigha St. Claire, and eighth graders Kylie Soberg and Kye Tingo.