Many students who graduated from District 742 have continued on to make significant contributions and achieve high recognition in a variety of fields. Below you will find some of our talented alumni who have generously shared their stories with us.
Do you know a former student whose story is inspirational and a testament to the District 742 experience? Share it HERE!
If you’re looking to engineer something and send it into space, Jill McGuire is your person! McGuire, a 1987 graduate of Apollo High School, is a space robotics application office lead at NASA. She and her team, after completing their mission to design and send over 200 tools into space for the Hubble Space Telescope servicing machine, are designing and engineering parts for robots to refuel satellites.
“I knew from an early age I wanted to be in design,” says McGuire. “I took a drafting class in high school and just fell in love with it.”
She feels that all the teachers at Apollo were supportive of her and her aspirations, especially since she was busy with athletics.
Her high school softball coach, John Ludwig, was her inspiration in school. He was instrumental in creating that team atmosphere and thought process, “if one succeeds, everyone succeeds.”
McGuire describes the new Robotic Refueling Mission she is working on as challenging. By using robots from the international space station, she and her team are designing tools that can be attached to those robots to refuel satellites. The tricky part is that there are three caps all wired together. The robot has to systematically remove each cap, and to do so in a way that does not disturb the fuel because it is highly combustible.
The goal of McGuire’s team is to use robotics to extend the life of satellites. Today’s satellites only have a 10 to 15 year life span due to running out of fuel. However, the data application software that is used in the satellite is still good and operable.
In the upcoming year and a half, McGuire will be demonstrating the refueling of a satellite and the transference of liquid cryogens for future missions to Mars.
What keeps McGuire inspired is the information.
“Seeing all the pictures and data from Hubble, it’s rewriting the textbooks of today,” says McGuire. “Bringing that data back to students is the biggest reward you can have. It’s just the best feeling--enriching people’s lives. How many people look up [in the sky] and wonder what’s there? And, when they see those pictures, you know in your heart you brought that.”
McGuire sees herself doing this for the rest of her life.
“I’ll ride out my career. It will be spent doing robotic technology in space. Robotic technology is still very immature,” says McGuire.
McGuire certainly has put in the work to get where she is today. Following graduation from Apollo, she attended the University of North Dakota where she was accepted into a co-op with the university and NASA.
However, she almost didn’t make it in. Her motto: persistence pays off.
“I never take no for an answer,” says McGuire. “Instead I ask, ‘What will it take?’ It’s just a matter of finding the solution.”
During the interview process for the co-op, she went through three interviews and there was only one spot left. She continued to follow-up. She was eventually told the position isn’t glamorous. She’d be the only woman with 30 men. They weren’t sure if they were comfortable doing that.
McGuire simply said, “I’ll take it.”
McGuire says it was the best experience she could have received. She worked in fabrication, and as an engineer, she now knows both ends of the process.
“It makes me a better engineer,” explains McGuire. “Not everybody has that experience.”
She tells young people looking for a career in engineering, “Don’t give up on that dream. Be persistent. Get your foot in the door any way you can and don’t take no for an answer.”
McGuire is an inspiring role model of her own advice.
Some Technical High School graduates head for the Olympics, others like Erin Saupe go on to become Oxford professors.
Saupe, a 2003 Tech grad, recently crossed the ocean to become an associate professor of earth science at Oxford. Her impressive education journey includes degrees from the College of St. Benedict, University of Kansas and Yale, but she admits there is a certain amount of pressure in taking the position at Oxford.
“It’s such an adventure!” she says. “Both exciting and a little scary.”
Saupe will be teaching earth science and evolution to undergraduates at Oxford as well as giving one-on-one, project-based tutorials. She explains that the tutorials are an expectation at Oxford and designed to encourage critical thinking.
A published researcher, Saupe will utilize her background to help students study species and communities over time while observing environmental changes.
Although high school seems a long time ago, Saupe credits some of her Advanced Placement teachers at Tech with launching her on this professional journey.
“Mr. Gerads is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had—anywhere,” Saupe says, referring to retired Advanced Placement History teacher, Jerry Gerads. “He inspired me to go into geology and become an archeologist.” (Her undergraduate degree.) “He is the reason I fell in love with the past.”
“My dissertation is dedicated to him,” she adds.
Other AP instructors at Tech inspired learning in her, too. “Jan Brown in English and Mr. Boatz in Math,” she reflects. “I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
Saupe took away other lessons from Tech as well. She ran cross-country and enjoyed it, appreciating the teamwork. She participated in Knowledge Bowl and Youth Service projects and tried out various activities.
One aspect of her high school experience she feels helped prepare her for a wider world perspective was “hanging out with diverse people.”
“I even won a Tech Alumni Association scholarship on What Tech Means to Me,” she remembers. “I wrote about diversity.”
Saupe grew up in Avon township on a six-acre hobby farm where her family kept sheep as pets. “They are our organic lawn mowers,” she says.
Her mother, Linda Shinehouse Saupe, recently retired from District 742 after 23 years as a school nurse.
Erin’s husband Brian Finley works as an auditor for Price Waterhouse Cooper and is transferring to London to share in her adventure. They will live right at Oxford.
“Oxford is made up of colleges,” she explains. “Kind of like Harry Potter houses,” she laughs.
Whatever this next year brings, Saupe is excited for the future, building on a sound foundation that began at Tech High School.
He calls himself a third generation landscape painter and jokes that he is genetically expected to paint! His father and great-grandfather were landscape artists. Dan Mondloch, a 2001 graduate of Apollo, is well-known for his beautiful, award-winning, watercolor paintings. He’s been featured in PBS “Postcards,” SPLASH 17 book and Pleinair Magazine’s “PlenAir Collector.”
Mondloch has been exposed to artistry and painting his entire life. He remembers sitting in his father’s studio as a child.
“I remember as far back as second grade,” says Mondloch. “I was with my three older brothers, and one day, my dad was doing a demonstration in his studio. He’d do them all the time. It was usually a mountain or a desert. I sat in the back working on my painting and was so proud to show him when I was done. I showed him my painting of my mountain. My dad said proudly, ‘That’s a great mountain! However, today we’re doing a desert!’”
That kind of love and support never stopped for Mondloch, it’s something he’s always appreciated.
“All of my [District 742] teachers starting in fifth grade were very supportive of me,” shares Mondloch. “My eighth grade teacher allowed me to go to the library to do projects and always said, ‘I’ll be here if you need me.’”
By the time he was a freshman, Mondloch knew he wanted to paint. While driving with his dad, he told him he wanted to start painting. The next morning, he found all the paint supplies he’d ever need waiting for him.
It was that February after conferences of his freshman year, when the counselor called him in asking for samples of his artwork. Mondloch was immediately transferred to one of Dennis Hummel’s classes. Mondloch took every art class he could.
To this day, Mondloch still works with Hummel at the Paramount Theatre and continues to be a valuable source for him.
By his senior year, his artwork was entered into a high school art show. He received a call to attend the reception. He was surprised to find that he won the Bill Ellingson award for his work.
Mondloch has found a new passion in painting plein air, meaning open air or outdoors.
“Lately plein air is my largest passion. My focus keeps changing. I think that’s what keeps me going,” says Mondloch. “That spark to keep exploring, it [plein air] gets me out with that sense of adventure.”
California, Florida, Maryland and Colorado are just a few states that Mondloch has traveled to continue plein air painting.
Looking to the future, Mondloch would like to be more nationally recognized and continue to build on the community of plein air painters.
His advice to anyone thinking about being an artist, “If you’re interested, there will be no shortage of people that say that you can’t or shouldn’t. Stick it out for the long haul. Just know that it is possible. You need to do the business aspect of it. A quote by Frank Webb, ‘Success in watercolors painters is not measured in how many created paintings you have, but by how many acres you have.’”
Right now, Mondloch is really enjoying life with his wife and new born son.
Apollo Alumna Laura Nelson Olmstead always aspired to be a judge. Starting June 1, her dream is coming true. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton just appointed Nelson Olmstead, a ’96 Apollo graduate, to the Second Judicial District Court of Minnesota.
Nelson Olmstead attributes much of her learning to her mentor, Honorable Judge Kathryn Quaintance of the Fourth Judicial District Court of Minnesota. Nelson Olmstead clerked for Quaintance out of law school, leading to her appointment to the bench.
Quaintance says of her former clerk, “She is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She is down-to- earth, a good communicator and fun to be with.”
Quaintance explains that Nelson Olmstead has always wanted to follow in the judge’s footsteps. They both practiced at the same law firm and both worked with Advocates for Human Rights.
“There was a running joke that she [Nelson Olmstead] would run against me and replace me because she was doing all the work,” Quaintance laughs.
Looking back on her education, Nelson Olmstead contributes much of her enthusiasm to “Boots” Roland Froyen, her high school language arts teacher at Apollo.
“He has a mind like a steel trap. He remembered everything!” says Nelson Olmstead.
She also remembers Steve Girth, another language arts teacher. He was an advisor for the literary journal.
Nelson Olmstead reminisces, “He would sit with you to plan out next steps and where you wanted to be.”
She believes it just shows how fantastic the Apollo teachers are.
“The staff were so invested in us,” remembers Nelson Olmstead.
Her education continued with a year at the College of St. Benedict’s and then to the University of Redlands in California. After graduation, she moved back to acquire her law degree from the University of Minnesota.
One of her reasons for moving back to Minnesota was the university and its reputation for law school, political activism and human rights. Being a judge incorporates all those reasons.
The life of a judge can vary depending on where you live. If the area is big enough, the judges are divided out by law: criminal, civil, family/juvenile, etc. . . . In Nelson Olmstead’s case, she could hear 70 cases in the morning and then hear motions and arguments in the afternoon.
However, today a lot of states and counties also want judges to be engaged with the community. Judges may be expected to be out in the public at various events to put a positive “face” on the judicial system.
“If you’re in court,” says Nelson Olmstead, “you’re already having a bad day.”
Nelson Olmstead sees herself as a judge for a long time to come. She encourages younger generations also to chase their dreams. Her advice: reach out to the folks in the community who are already in the field. Go talk to a lawyer if you want to be a lawyer or an engineer if you want to be in engineering. In her experience, community members (like herself) are always happy to take the time to give a sense of what’s it like to walk in their shoes.
John Pederson is an entrepreneur, inventor and graduate of Apollo High School, class of 1977.
“Most people in the world see my inventions every day,” says Pederson.
Those everyday inventions are in the form of police lights, security lights and architectural lighting.
Pederson is the current CEO and Chairman of the Board for LVX Systems, which produces a smart, innovative light-emitting diode (LED) technology. His company is currently collaborating with NASA using his light technology, which could be used for future space travel. LVX has the patent on visible light communications, in essence, secure and energy-efficient internet and communications through light.
Pederson’s vision is taking light to the next level.
“Lights will do so many things, [in the future] you won’t be able to remember that at one time light was just light,” he says.
“I’ve always been self-driven,” states Pederson. “My advice: follow what you like doing. You’ll always do better. I loved school. I love to learn.”
Looking back at his years in St. Cloud schools, he can name every teacher he’s ever had in District 742, starting from kindergarten. He feels they were all great teachers. He has no bad memories and is quick to point out that fact is one of the highest compliments he can give.
However, one pivotal memory in high school does stand out.
“I was walking out of the library [of Apollo] and I heard some guys laughing,” explains Pederson. “It sounded like men laughing to me, not boys. That’s when it hit me. We weren’t boys anymore.”
Pederson loves staying connected to Apollo and St. Cloud. His kids are Apollo graduates as well. Two years ago, Pederson used his NASA connections to bring several astronauts to Apollo. An open public forum was held for students and community members to hear about the astronauts’ experiences, to sign autographs and to answer questions. Pederson was also able to demonstrate his LED technology by giving tours of the Superintendent’s office where the technology is installed.
Pederson currently lives in Florida where he has an office at NASA.
He says, “It’s a blast working with people there.”
He imagines he’ll be doing the same thing in five to ten years from now. He explains that a project could take ten years to develop. And that’s what he loves most, seeing the project from beginning to end.
In his downtime, he enjoys swimming with dolphins and beluga whales.
However, he misses St. Cloud, stating he is a self-proclaimed “cold weather guy.” He truly loves Minnesota.
Pederson advises, “To me, the day is successful if you like the day. I love education and that’s what it’s about . . . Enjoy the time you have. There is an old saying, ‘If it works, do more. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it.’”
He often reminds his team, “The only thing worse than being copied, is not being copied.”
Alise Post is a 2009 Tech High School graduate who has hit the BMX world by storm. After making the USA Olympic team in 2012, she now is preparing for the 2016 Olympics to represent Team USA in Rio De Janeiro.
BMX is short for bicycle motocross. The races usually entail steep curves and hills, creating a challenge to stay on the bike as well as to master speed.
Starting at the age of 6, Post had to conquer her fears.
“My first race, I got so nervous I backed out, but came back for the second . . . After the first crash, it wasn’t so bad!”
Post grew up in St. Cloud, Minnesota and started traveling for racing by the age of 10. By the age of 15, she went international.
She looks back on her high school years with fond memories, even though she didn’t experience the typical high school life. Traveling for races and keeping up with her advanced placement classes was somewhat of a juggling act.
“I was very involved in athletics,” reminisces Post. “The comradery was great. I remember going to Clark Field with friends. [Also] all the teachers were great and fun to be around. They were all so flexible and supportive of me with my BMX career.”
Post is committed to giving back to younger racers. Even with a typical day of three to six hours of physical training and the rest of the day in mental and health preparation for the Olympics, she finds time to coach younger racers. She enjoys coaching girls and helping at charity events. She loves to just show up at a track to ride, and she’s more than happy to give pointers. She wants to help the next generation.
In a male dominated sport, Post relished the competition.
“I always enjoyed hanging with the boys,” says Post. “I have two older brothers. I’ve definitely made a few boys cry [winning races growing up] . . . [Now] I really love to come back to Minnesota to focus on girls coaching sessions. There are a lot of little girls now [in the sport] which is amazing.”
Looking back, Post recognizes the barriers she faced.
“The challenge was not having a female mentor,” she states. “BMX is very young in the Olympic run. You still have to battle for sponsorships. [But] the world is changing, catering more to women’s needs.”
When giving advice to the next generation, she wants girls to realize that it’s okay to have messy “helmet hair” and scrapes. She doesn’t want them to feel timid, but empowered.
“Everyone starts as a novice, no matter if you are a girl or a boy…[Being an athlete] is a lifestyle. Every day you have to prepare your body better for the next day . . . I just want people to realize that anyone can do anything,” says Post.
Looking down the road, Post realizes that she will not always be an Olympic racer. At this point, she believes that she’ll be done racing by the age of 35. Her next goal is to work in physical therapy, and she would really like to continue working with people in sports.
One thing is for sure in the future. She loves the St. Cloud area.
Post states, “I love supporting everything local. My biggest fan base is still Central Minnesota, and it is still my home.”
Update 8-19-16: Alise wins silver medal in BMX racing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
After two tours in Iraq and Bosnia, Shelby Hadley, a former Area Learning Center (ALC) student and 1997 Apollo graduate, has found her passion and niche as a vocational rehabilitation specialist for the St. Cloud Veteran’s Hospital.
Her primary responsibility is to assess veterans returning from deployment in order to transition them into suitable programs and jobs. She is able to help them with mock interviews, resume writing and job searches.
“After I finished my four-year degree, I wanted to work with my heart,” Hadley says. “My passion is truly with vets.”
Looking back at her high school years with District 742, she feels as though she came into her own self.
“I loved school!” Hadley exclaims.
However, Hadley followed an atypical road to success. While in high school, she gave birth to a son and joined the Alternative Learning Program where she met then (and ongoing) mentor, Tami DeLand, currently the Director of Community Engagement and Communications for District 742. She attributes much of her success to DeLand.
“Tami went above and beyond. She started a journal writing club for the students. She’d even order in food to get the kids to stay and get them engaged,” remembers Hadley.
She also reflects that Jacob Wetterling was in her class and says his disappearance deeply affected her. At a very young age, she realized that life can change in an instant.
To get through her early life challenges, she relied on the knowledge that people believed in her and supported her. She is quick to say that it was not only family, but also school and community members who supported her.
She’ll also be the first to tell you that she likes to rise to challenges.
Hadley says, “There were bets on when I’d come home from basic training. Knowing that made me stay [in training] longer. Kids don’t understand that you can fail. I’ve failed, but you just keep going. That’s what gets you to your success.”
As Hadley’s grown older, that sense of community support is still strong. She volunteers with her children’s PTA, the Humanities Center in Minneapolis and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. She also continues her work with veterans and can’t imagine doing anything else.
5-Star applause for this Apollo graduate, veteran and community supporter!