Justin Edwards, Staples, received a $550 Wes Winter Scholarship from Bemidji State University for the upcoming academic year.
Edwards is a senior majoring in physics and industrial technology.
Nancy Okerlund, Little Falls, was named the northwest region Anne Richardson RIF Volunteer of the Year by Reading Is Fundamental Inc.
RIF is the nation's largest and oldest nonprofit children's and family literacy organization.
Okerlund, a fourth-grade teacher at Royalton Elementary School, has been the guiding force for the RIF program in her school district for 10 years where on average more than 300 children and their parents participate in three evening book events a year. Each child chooses and keeps a free, new book in addition to a night of teacher and student skits, sing-a-longs and professional entertainment with their parents.
Okerlund organizes and publicizes each RIF event and has secured monetary and in-kind donations for the program through fund-raising. She worked with the Royalton Lion's Club to have a bookshelf built for each child's home library. When school budgets were cut, she successfully rallied the community to support continued school funding for the Royalton RIF program.
An independent panel of judges, this year from the Points of Light Foundation, selected Okerlund and six other regional volunteers and one national Volunteer of the Year.
Joseph Backowski, the son of Bob and Mary Backowski of LIttle Falls, has been selected as Student of the Month for September, a recognition program sponsored by the youth activities committee of Brainerd Elks Lodge No. 615.
Backowski is active in student council and currently serves as council treasurer. He is also involved in band, Natural Resources Club, concert choir and is president and treasurer in 4-H. His future plans are to attend St. Cloud State University and major in a science field.
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