A friendly rivalry blossoms
While a game of volleyball between two schools may not seem like a big deal to most high schools, it is for the students at Zumbro Education District (ZED) Area Learning Center (ALC) as they took on the students of the Rochester ALC on Friday, Oct. 4.
Blooming Prairie is a part of the ZED.
Andrew Petersilie, ZED ALC school counselor for the past 14 years, said the tradition started about 10 years ago with flag football.
“My wife, Rochester ALC Health and Physical Education Teacher Amy Petersilie, and I were talking and then we got our school principals involved because a lot of the kids at the ALC don’t always have the opportunity to play varsity sports due to eligibility reasons so we thought it would be fun,” he said.
They played just flag football for years, but its popularity grew, and they ended up incorporating dodgeball in the winter, basketball during March Madness, and now volleyball in the fall.
“Our hope is to do all four this year; sometimes with scheduling it doesn’t necessarily work out,” he said.
Amy Stites, new ZED ALC principal, was pleased the volleyball game was held this year, especially considering the obstacles in their way.
“This one was particularly hard because I wasn’t here right away. I started just a few weeks ago,” she said. “We knew we wanted to do this, but the beginning of the year is so busy that we got the date set, but we didn’t necessarily get our teams assembled and we didn’t get the practices set up. I’m really pleased that we were able to pull it together.”
Having this game also provides the students with a school activity beyond regular classes.
“I think the kids just like the opportunity because school should be so much more than just coming and learning. That’s important obviously, but many of our kids have had history of lack of educational success so we want to give them all of the same things that they would have in a normal high school. Extracurriculars are really important and it helps kids buy into the whole experience and build a positive culture,” she said.
Petersilie mentioned that the games also gives students a reason to maintain good grades.
“For some kids, it’s a great motivator because they live for the sports so that helps them keep their grades up and be here because they want to be a part of the team, practicing, and engaged,” he said.
Being a part of the team, Stites said, transcends the actual game.
“Being at an ALC, you sometimes feel isolated and you sometimes feel that you might not be as fully accepted as a real high school and so when we can get together and have common goals and common understandings of what our mission is as an ALC I think that camaraderie between the two ALC’s is huge,” she said. “This one is particularly fun because of the husband and wife rivalry.”
In addition to the husband and wife connection, Stites worked at the Rochester ALC for seven years before being hired at the ZED ALC this year.
Petersilie said the some cross-school ties makes it fun for the kids too.
“I think it’s really about connections, not just student to student, but teacher to teacher, or colleague to colleague,” Stites said. “We’re all in this together and I just really want to provide an opportunity for kids to feel connected and feel successful and so that common goal of providing that experience for them is probably the best part.”