11 new people recognized for putting others before themselves

Published 5:46 pm Friday, March 3, 2023

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Annual Wall of Inspiration inductees announced

Eleven people were added to the Wall of Inspiration at Albert Lea High School during a ceremony Friday morning: Danny Aguilar, Ella Bordeaux, Katie Cords, Lara Westrum, Jaya Stout, Whitney Mullenbach, Duane Miller, Kendall Kenis, Kaitlyn Klocke, Pacey Brekke and Chris Dibble.

The Wall of Inspiration has been at the school since 2004, when the Kupahl family developed the idea to honor members of the Albert Lea High School family who had inspired others to be better than they thought they could be. The wall honors Josh Kuphal, a former Albert Lea High School graduate who died from spina bifida.

“The motto of the wall is be the change you want to see,” said Jim Haney, a co-host for the event. “This motto is a directive of how a person should live their lives by kindness, by generosity of time and energy and by being selfless — putting others before yourself.”

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“Danny regularly comforts classmates and staff, and quickly gives them grace when they make mistakes,” fellow co-host Brittney Utzka said of Aguilar while reading a portion of his nomination letter. “He doesn’t make them feel embarrassed or ashamed of what they did. Instead, he uses his humor and a smile to make them feel better.”

“Being a part of the Wall of Inspiration makes me feel honored and makes me feel proud about myself,” Aguilar said in a recorded video presented during the ceremony.

Bordeaux is involved in LINK crew, National Honor Society, the Superintendent Student Cabinet and outside of school is involved as a personal care assistant, babysits and is involved in her youth group.

“Ella is a very kind and caring person,” Haney said, reading a portion of Bordeaux’s nomination letter. “She goes out of her way to make others smile and is very compassionate towards everyone around her.”

“I am so extremely humbled and honored to be on the Wall of Inspiration this year,” she said in her video.

Cords, a 2007 ALHS graduate, has been with the school district for the past five years.

“Katie Cords has gone out of her way to make Albert Lea High School a better place,” Utzka read as part of her nomination letter. “Each morning she makes the high school run smoothly by working with students, staff and administration.

“… Without Katie the school day would come to a standstill.”

In her video, she thanked whoever nominated her.

“I know to take the time to write anything and submit it, their time is valuable,” she said.

She also noted happiness was a choice, and said it was easier to be happy.

Haney noted Westrum, who plans to major in marketing, felt she was blessed with leadership roles.

In the nomination letter read by Haney, the nominee stated “she is an outstanding person both in and out of the classroom,” Haney read. “… She is a friendly face to all students. Lara is very inclusive and generous to everyone.”

“I find it very honoring and humbling ,and it’s just such an amazing opportunity that I have to be a part of the Wall of Inspiration,” Westrum said in her video.

According to Utzka, Stout enjoys running, writing, reading, singing and managing hockey. She then read part of Stout’s nomination letter.

“I am nominating Jaya for the Wall of Inspiration for so many reasons,” Utzka read. “… Jaya is the best person ever, she is always trying to help people, anytime she is in a room she lights it up just being there and always smiling.”

“It’s truly an honor, so thank you so much,” Stout said in her video.

Mullenbach is involved in student council, LINK crew, girls golf and the National Honor Society.

In a nomination letter, Haney said Mullenbach’s “determination and academic success set her apart from her peers, but she is especially unique because she is so passionate about helping others,” he read.

“Thank you so much for this opportunity,” Mullenbach said in her video. “I am so honored to be nominated for the Wall of Inspiration, and I’m very excited.”

Miller served in the military for three years and was named en employee of the month.

Utzka then read part of his nomination letter.

“Duane is amazing,” she said. “He makes Albert Lea High School a better place to learn and work. He has a positive attitude and friendly demeanor that makes people feel better about themselves. He has gone above and beyond to make the high school look great.”

“Thank you for nominating me for the Wall of Inspiration,” Miller said in his video.

Kenis, who plays basketball, soccer and track, is also involved in student council, the National Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the leadership council, the Well-Being Club and LINK crew. Haney then read a portion of her nomination letter.

“Many people inspire me everyday but the person that inspires me most is by far Kendall Kenis,” he read. “Kendall always has a positive attitude and something nice to say whether it’s during practice or in a game, or even just outside of basketball. Kendall is always very encouraging and a great team leader, she’ll go out of her way to help you with what you need and go above and beyond when it comes to helping her teammates.”

“It’s such an honor to put my tile next to all these amazing people,” Kenis said.

Besides being involved in clay target trap shooting, student council and National Honor Society, Klocke teaches Community Ed classes and works at Good Shot Golf & Sporting Clays.

Utzka noted Klocke was an A Honor Roll student and was recently awarded the Martin Luther King Scholarship. She then read part of Klocke’s nomination letter.

“When I walk into a classroom with Kaitlyn, I swear she’s always making someone smile,” she read. “ She constantly has a smile on her face and a positive attitude. Even when she’s stressing about her test in math, she finds time to help people if they need it.”

“If you know me, then you know I like to smile and laugh a lot,” she said in her video. “Some might even say I have a recognizable laugh in school, and that’s OK with me because I like to make every situation fun. Life is too short to be grumpy.”

Brekke is involved in cross country, swimming and track. He also participates at his church and in a youth group.

Haney said he was inspired by being around other athletes and pushed him to do the best and improve his personal record in running.

He then read part of his nomination letter.

“He is kind, respectful, thoughtful, humble and many more,” he read. “When I think of Pacey, the first thing I think is a leader, a hard worker, an inspiration. He helps kids find a safe space, a little family when they need it.”

“I’d like to thank the people who nominated me for this award,” Brekke said in his video. “I appreciate it, thank you.”

Dibble, the school’s principal, has worked for the district for seven years, and Utzka said he was inspired by trying new things, helping people to learn and finding new ways to solve problems. She then read part of his nomination letter.

“Chris has transformed our school by looking at what’s really happening and coming up with solutions to make it better,” she read. “He asks for staff and student input. He values collaboration and realizes that when people work together, better solutions arise.”

“I’m very honored to be selected to the Wall of Inspiration,” Dibble said in his video. “Thanks to whoever nominated me for this honor.”

The committee for the Wall of Inspiration is made up of staff representatives Utzka, Haney and Jasmine Hansen, the Kuphal and Eleseth families and student representatives Gavin Hanke, Erin Boorsma, Naveah Wacholz, Andrew Tscholl and Ellie Schulz.

Currently 157 people or businesses are on the wall.