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Success is no surprise at Cotter schools (07/13/2008)
From: Craig Junker

President, Cotter Schools

There is no doubt that U.S. high schools need to

make changes in order to better prepare upcoming generations of students for an ever changing, interconnected, and competitive world. According to a report recently released by Education Week, almost 30 percent of the class of 2008 will fail to graduate this year. The report also casts doubt on how well American schools are preparing our nation's youth for their future. In the years to come, the most educated of society will have increasingly significant advantages over the less educated. This is why it is critical for our young people to realize that education is their friend and vigorously chase educational opportunities beyond high school.

The decisions we make in educating today's students will have a profound impact on their futures. We at Cotter want to make sure that we have our priorities right. Based on several factors, including our students' academic pursuits after graduation, there is little doubt that Cotter students are well primed for their scholarly goals after high school. Again this past school year, Cotter saw impressive results:

1. During the 2007-2008 school year, Cotter students collectively contributed over 10,000 hours of community service to the Winona area. Highlighted by our Christian social justice curriculum,

Cotter sophomores created real time projects that provided funding and awareness for breast cancer research, AIDS, homelessness, environmental concerns, peace initiatives, and other issues. The Cotter Show Choir Goes Green fundraiser assisted many Winona community members in recycling electronics and other appliances. Furthermore, approximately 20% of Cotter's student body participated in our Cross Cultural Ministry Project (CCMP), a service organization that provides Christian service and cultural experiences for students. Cotter students participated in service and cultural experience trips to Chicago, St. Louis, San Diego, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

2. The Cotter class of 2008's 33 international students marked the largest group of international students to ever have graduated from our school.  The opportunity for local students to get to know, understand, and appreciate people from different parts of the world is an invaluable part of the Cotter experience.  Prepared students of the future will not only be intellectually competent but will also have a broader awareness of the world.  This past year, Cotter was blessed with students from China, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Germany, Ivory Coast, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Rwanda, Thailand, Chile, and Mexico.

3. Cotter's small class sizes allow our teachers to sincerely know our students and to develop meaningful relationships that are conducive to learning. Incredibly, the top half of ACT composite scores for the class of 2008 averaged at the 90th percentile nationally. This is the second time in the last four years that our school can boast of such an impressive achievement.

4. Over the years, Cotter bands and choirs have enjoyed outstanding reputations for excellence. This February, Mr. Dave Gudmastad, Cotter's long-time band director, was recognized as Minnesota's Music Educator of the Year. A brief look at the 2007-2008 band program notes several accomplishments. During the parade and field show season, the marching band earned nine first place awards in eleven appearances including a first place finish in the Lions Club Parade of Nations in Chicago. Both the Concert and Symphonic Bands received "superior" ratings at Large Group Contest. Jazz I was selected as the top band in its class at the University of Wisconsin--LaCrosse Jazz Festival. Throughout the year, several Cotter band students distinguished themselves through participation in the Hiawatha Valley League (HVL) and Winona State University honor bands, the Dorian Band Festival, and the Minnesota Music Education Association's all-state auditions.

Cotter's choir program also had a stellar year. In short, two Cotter students had the honor of being the featured soloists at the HVL All-Conference Honors Music Concert. The Concert Choir earned three out of three "superior" ratings at the Large Group Music Contest. During the Solo Ensemble Music Contest, Cotter vocalists received four out of four "best in site" awards. Cotter's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technical Dream Coat certainly ranked as one of our finest, selling out at all three performances. In total, eight band students and seven choir students earned All-Conference awards.

5. This past year, more than 70% of our local families received financial aid to help their children attend Cotter. In addition to a strong need-based financial assistance program for current students, Cotter proudly awarded $85,100 in post secondary scholarships to the class of 2008. These scholarships are available through an endowment fund generously provided by the Hiawatha Education Foundation and are exclusively intended to help all Cotter graduates attend the college, university, or technical college of their choice. Over $6.4 million in scholarships has been awarded since 1992.

6. Cotter's co-curricular program provides students with positive and enjoyable experiences that develop the ideals of leadership, physical fitness, self-discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, and ethical behavior. Ninety percent of Cotter students participated in at least one of our co-curricular programs this year. Perhaps most remarkable, Cotter's math team once again completed its season with a trip to the state mathematics tournament, earning a second place finish.

In the area of athletics, Cotter witnessed several impressive accomplishments: our baseball team recently captured third place in the state tournament; the girls' softball team earned first place in the Hiawatha Valley League for the 15th time out of the last 16 seasons, and several athletes qualified for state competition in track, swimming, and gymnastics. Jenny Gilbertson (basketball), Thomas O'Brien (football), and Donny Wasinger (cross-country) earned scholarships to Division I universities. Jenny Gilbertson, Patrick Bowlin (basketball) and Joey Nadeau (hockey) broke school scoring records in their respective sports. Incredibly, Donny Wasinger completed his Cotter athletic career as a five-time state champion, ultimately setting the state Class A record in the 1600 meters. In all, 39 Cotter athletes earned all conference honors in athletics.

7. Building a faith-based community is one of Cotter's top priorities. This past year, our religion and campus ministry departments made special efforts to invite students to participate in Friday Masses as well as in daily prayer services. We also took steps to incorporate a "sports and spirituality" program that will provide another context for students to further develop their faith life in years to come.

8. The Cotter High School Summer Reading Program is off and running! Twenty-six Cotter advisors have come together to offer a unique reading program to motivate students to read during the summer months. Unlike any other reading program of its kind, faculty and staff members have selected a favorite book to share with groups of students in various sessions during the summer.

9. After 16 years on the beautiful Saint Teresa campus, 2007-2008 marked the year where Cotter owns all of the academic, coeducational, and boarding facilities and grounds currently used by our students -- debt-free. We are grateful for the relationships with various organizations and people that have allowed us to further advance the mission of Catholic education in Winona.

10. Cotter has been graciously blessed with the support of our community as well as our alumni and friends, both near and far. This year we were able to surpass the fundraising goals of our annual Phonathon, Auction, and Cotter Classic Golf Tournament, our three largest fundraisers. Through their countless volunteer hours as well as their financial gifts, Cotter supporters have helped make a difference in the lives of our students. Their belief in our school and Catholic education as a whole provides reinforced meaning and purpose to our daily mission of community, faith, scholarship, and service.

Indeed, success is no surprise at Cotter Schools. We have committed ourselves to offering the best education we can provide during a time that students need it most.



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