M State's Simon honored with Veterans' Voices award


Kayla Simon, a college social worker on the Detroit Lakes and Wadena campuses of Minnesota State Community and Technical College, is being honored with the Veterans' Voices award for veterans who have honorably served and made outstanding contributions to their communities.

The annual award, from the Minnesota Humanities Center, will be presented Sept. 11 in St. Paul. Simon is among eight "On the Rise" awardees under the age of 40.

Simon enrolled at M State following her graduation from Frazee-Vergas High School. During her final semester, she was called to active military duty with the Minnesota National Guard and spent 19 months in Iraq. Following her deployment, she returned and graduated from M State, then earned her Master of Social Work degree from University of North Dakota.

She joined M State as a college social worker in August 2016 and, during her first year with the college, led collaborative efforts with True Life Church of Detroit Lakes to bring Ruby's Pantry to the Detroit Lakes campus and community for a monthy food distribution. This non-profit organization collects corporate surplus grocery items and distributes them in rural communities.

Simon also has started a food pantry on M State's Wadena and Detroit Lakes campuses, and she worked with teachers and a group of fellow parents to revive the Parent Teacher Organization in Frazee, where three of her children attend school.

She previously worked for five years with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans and continues to serve as an unofficial representative for veterans, helping them learn about and get the benefits they have earned.

"I know it's difficult for people to ask for help," Simon said, "and when they do ask, I want to help them understand they have options and support them as they improve their lives."