Wadena-Deer Creek seniors honored as ‘Students of Character’
Forty-six area high school students were selected by their respective school staff for recognition April 19 at the Students of Character Celebration at Madden's on Gull Lake organized by Sourcewell.
WADENA — Wadena-Deer Creek High School students Nathan Muchow and Charlize Pichardo shared the spotlight recently at Sourcewell’s Students of Character Celebration.
Forty-six juniors and seniors throughout the area — including Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties — were honored at a special event recognizing students for their “quiet leadership, perseverance and dedication to their community, school and fellow students.”
One inspirational story after another was shared at the invitation-only event at Madden’s on Gull Lake on April 19. Each honoree was selected by their respective high school staff and presented with a $750 scholarship, made possible by business and community donations.
“This event continues to get better and better each year,” Sourcewell Executive Director and CEO Dr. Chad Coauette said in a news release. “These students and their stories absolutely blow my mind.”
Laura Kiser, a WDC social worker, nominated Muchow and Pichardo to receive the scholarships at the 32nd annual celebration. Donations from local businesses, organizations and individuals made it possible for each student to receive a scholarship, plus a chance to win door prizes.
“You have a group of students defying the odds; some who never thought they’d see high school graduation,” Coauette explained. “And they’re all up on stage being honored, recognized and celebrated for their accomplishments.”
Sourcewell — the Staples-based regional service cooperative for Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties — partners with local businesses, organizations and individuals to hold this annual celebration.
“Honorees are selected by their school staff with the criteria that they are unsung heroes of their districts,” according to the program for the event. “The event celebrates the difference these students make and lets them know we appreciate and believe in them.”
The three-hour event was broadcast live on Facebook for the general public. But a recording of the complete event can be viewed on Sourcewell’s Facebook page. Muchow and Pichardo were in attendance.
“Nathan has grown from a very shy, anxious student at risk of failing classes to a positive, energetic, self-driven, successful student with many goals and skills to help him with the next steps in life,” according to officials.
Muchow is a WDC senior who plans to attend Northern Michigan University to study forensic biochemistry upon graduation from high school.
“Nathan’s journey to accept himself as a transgender youth and subsequently navigate the various levels of acceptance in a small community has been inspiring,” according to the event program about the honored high school students from the area.
“Nathan has become confident in who he is. And that confidence shines through and allows others to see that you don't have to be just like everyone else to be happy and successful,” said Chelsea Ornelas, co-host of the ceremony and member of Sourcewell’s marketing staff.
Pichardo is also a WDC senior and was described as “just an all-around nice person” that has come out of her shell and become more involved in school activities, including the National Honor Society and theater.
“She pushed through her immense shyness and completed a successful project for the benefit of the Wadena Humane Society,” Ornelas said of Pichardo. “Charlize told her advisor that because of the project … she plans to attend the University of Minnesota-Morris to study marketing and graphic design.”
As a service cooperative, Sourcewell is a self-sustaining government organization charged by Minnesota state statute to partner with education, government and nonprofits to boost student and community success.
“This year, donors gave more than $20,000 and we bundled that amount with leftover money in our scholarship fund so that every student here tonight will get a scholarship for $750,” Ornelas said at the event.