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Jessica BiserMy name is Jessie Biser, and I graduated from St. Francis High School in 2010. I received my Master’s Degree in Public Health from Emory University in 2019. After two years working at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), I realized that what I was doing wasn’t lighting me up anymore. While I loved my team and everything that the CDC represents, I decided to pursue my dreams by quitting my full-time job to start an online yoga business. I live and travel full-time in a self-converted van with my partner, Chris, and I absolutely love what I do! I teach online yoga classes and workshops from all over the United States, and we post weekly YouTube videos to share our van-life adventures. Our goal is to visit all 63 National Parks! I am so happy I decided to leap into entrepreneurship because it gives me freedom over time, and I get to make a living doing something I love.
St. Francis Area Schools students, staff, and alumni, check out www.jessiebiseryoga.com. If you’d like to follow our van adventures, follow ‘Acrovan Adventures’ on Instagram and YouTube.
Dr. Bruce Gleason
Dr. Bruce Gleason, a St. Francis High School class of 1976 graduate, has gone on to accomplish a number of goals in the music profession. In high school, Dr. Gleason enjoyed playing tuba in the concert band, bass guitar in jazz ensemble with Dick Foley and in choir, he was the bass section leader with Lee Carlson. “I wanted to be a high school band director, and after receiving a bachelor of arts in music from Crown College and a bachelor of science in music education from the University of Minnesota, I taught band, choir and elementary music for six years in Kennedy, Minnesota,” stated Gleason.
From there he went on to complete his master’s in music education at the University of Minnesota and enlisted in the United States Army band program. He attended basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey and advanced individual training at the Armed Forces School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia. After his service was complete, he went on to accomplish his Ph.D. in music education at the University of Iowa.
Dr. Gleason is now in his twenty-first year as a professor of music at the University of St. Thomas, where he teaches music education and music history courses. Dr. Gleason still has strong ties to the St. Francis community, as he meets with other St. Francis alumni the second Saturday of each month to play music.
For St. Francis High School (SFHS) alumnus Glen Gunderson, a focus on doing good has guided him in his personal and professional life. As current president and CEO for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, Gunderson said, “Do all the good you possibly can, by all means, in all ways, in all places, at all times and to all people.”
Gunderson is a proud SFHS alumnus from the class of 1986. He said many of his teachers and coaches were instrumental in his journey.
“I can think of many influential coaches and instructors from my time in St. Francis Area Schools,” Gunderson said. “Randy Keillor was a positive influence and instilled a love of learning and curiosity in his students. He built a dynamic culture in the classroom. John Zschunke brought a ton of energy and passion to the music department. He set high expectations for our high school marching band, built a spirit of collaboration and generated a huge sense of pride. Ron Larson, my varsity basketball coach, demonstrated a level of intensity and a work ethic that has continued to influence me throughout my career. Jeff Fink, Len Messerschmidt, Rob Held, Vern Gilbertson, Mark Bender, Dick Foley, Lee Carlson and former SFHS Principal Rick Hubbard all made a big impression on me.”
Since Gunderson joined the YMCA in 2012, the non-profit organization nearly doubled the number of people served to 400,000 annually. He has previously held senior leadership roles at Lifetime Fitness and RedBrick Health.
Gunderson’s advice for today’s students at St. Francis Area Schools is to discover what they are most passionate about and then explore how that desire can be transformed into a career.
“I’ve been fortunate to advance community well-being, youth development and social responsibility,” Gunderson said of his leadership roles.
On March 17 in a 2-1 in overtime win over Buffalo, the National Women’s Hockey League
(NWHL) Minnesota Whitecaps achieved 2019 Isobel Cup and Haylea Schmid, a 2009 St. Francis High School graduate, celebrated with her team.
Schmid has been a forward with the Whitecaps for three years and she mentioned SFHS activities director Chris Lindquist as a teacher whom she found to be motivational in her high school career. When asked what her proudest achievement is, she replied, “Pursuing my passion for the game and being a mentor to young players as I play for the Minnesota Whitecaps who are breaking barriers for women’s hockey.” Her advice to young women is don’t doubt yourself, be confident in your endeavors, and hard work pays off.
The 2018-19 was the Whitecap’s first season in the NWHL. Minnesota fans showed their support by providing the team with the fastest sellout record in NWHL history. The Whitecaps play in the TRIA rink in St. Paul.
St. Francis High School Hall of Fame Ceremony 2019
On January 11 the 1986 St. Francis High School wrestling team was inducted into the SFHS Activities/Athletic Hall of Fame (HOF). The Fighting Saints team finished as state consolation champions winning two out of three matches at the state wrestling tournament. The 1986 team was the first in school history to win the Region 7AA championship and advance to state.
Head Coach Terry Sworsky was also inducted at the same HOF ceremony. From 1977 until 2004, Sworsky was the head varsity wrestling coach at SFHS garnering a 303-127-7 overall record while winning nine conference championships with four of those teams qualifying for the State Wrestling Tournament. During his tenure he coached 138 all-conference wrestlers, 101 state entrants, 59 state place winners and nine state champions.
Major Mike Starr, (retired) North Dakota Army Reserves National Guard and St. Francis
Area Schools school board chairman, has coordinated the veterans program for a number of years. The all-school assembly at St. Francis High School gives students an opportunity to learn about a veteran. This year, Dennis Berg shared his story.
Berg, a 1963 St. Francis High School graduate and former Anoka County Commissioner, served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. In November 1966, Berg’s convoy of nine armored vehicles was ambushed by the 5th Viet Cong Division, 274th Regiment, which had over 1,000 soldiers.
Berg lost two of his friends during the deadly attack. He also learned that another soldier in the 11th Armored Calvary, the Blackhorse Regiment, sacrificed himself to save Berg. Among the shock of losing his friends, Berg forgot the name of the soldier who saved his life. For over 40 years, Berg had nightmares, trying to forget the war, but one thing remained—he wanted to find the name of that soldier. Once Vietnam records were declassified in the 1986 Freedom of Information Act, Berg was able to search for him and found Russell Halley from Waterloo, Iowa. Berg continues to search for information for others and bring it forward, knowing the healing power it brings.