Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Blooming Prairie Youth Club unit coordinator Kelli Naatz and staff member Alicia Ptacek do some planning for the upcoming Rib Fest in June. Staff photo by Howard Lestrud

New coordinator named at BP Youth Club

Kelli Naatz has lofty goals for organization

Leadership comes in different commodities, and Kelli Naatz, 24, of Blooming Prairie, is one of those untapped leaders.

Naatz, a 2012 graduate of Blooming Prairie High School, was recently named unit coordinator of the Blooming Prairie Youth Club. She succeeds Marcy Sundine.

“I never envisioned myself here working with young people,” says Naatz in an honest tone of voice.

Even though she has only been on staff since last August at the BP Youth Club, Naatz has gained valuable experience as a leader and has already set some lofty goals.

“I want the club to grow and expand and have a greater diversity,” Naatz remarks. “We’re always looking for improvement,” she added.

The Blooming Prairie Youth Club, formerly the Boys and Girls Club of BP, is a home after school for youngsters from grades K-8. The club is also the site some young volunteers and even older volunteers like to inhabit.

Who is Kelli Naatz? She is the daughter of Doug and Holli Naatz and sister of Kalyn Naatz, who like Kelli seeks a career in agriculture. About six months ago, Kelli was a young leader looking for a job.

Board member Angie Carlson and director Marcy Sundine recruited Naatz as a staff member. She attended South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D. Her first three years were devoted to agriculture education. “I wanted to be a teacher,” she confessed.

She minored in animal science and was active in coaching basketball and softball before earning a Bachelor of Science Degree from SDSU.

While in college, she job shadowed and taught at Willow Lake in South Dakota and at the Glenville-Emmons High School.

Agriculture has been her love all of her young life. She has been a member of the Merry Lane 4-H Club for 13 years and also was a member of the Blooming Prairie Future Farmers of America from eighth grade to her senior year.

While in 4-H, Naatz showed beef, dairy, sheep, goats, poultry and rabbits. She also has done some general projects including shop photography, flower gardening, landscaping, health, crafts and self determined.

Her early days at the Youth Club had Naatz making bank deposits and watching over the kids, in addition to setting up activities and even shopping for grocery items. “This was something out of the ordinary but something I really liked,” Naatz admits.

The opportunity to be the BP Youth Club director “was an opportunity for me to grow and experience something different,” says Naatz. “I can also watch the young kids learn and grow,” she said.

Always sharing a wide smile, Naatz loves to talk about her daily job. She oversees 25-30 kids Mondays through Fridays. Naatz usually comes in at 3:05 pm. and keeps the club open until 6.

Naatz organizes snacks and recently implemented a spelling program for first and second graders. A test is given on Mondays and practice takes place on Fridays.

If the kids get all spelling words correct, they earn a Super Speller Award, which is a gift certificate for a free kids meal at Applebee’s.

Naatz and her staff help all fifth and sixth grade youths with their math and vocabulary. Homework and reading are also emphasized until 4 p.m. “If they don’t have school work, we have the kids read accelerated books from the library at the club,” she informed.

Following homework, the youths work with crafts, or work out in the fitness center. Kids can also work on computers, solving educational games, or they can go to the game room and play foosball, air hockey, X-box, board games or pool.

When temperatures warm, kids go outside and be kids playing in the snow, Naatz said.

In the summer, the youths play baseball, football, play on the swing set or create chalk drawings on the sidewalk. The club also has a membership at the Pine Springs Swimming Pool and this is a favorite activity of the kids. The attendance of kids in the summer is between 50 and 60.

Naatz was offered the position of unit coordinator in early January. She didn’t accept the position right away, saying she wished to evaluate the opportunities and wished to regroup. 

“We had a lot going on in January planning for the Benefit Bash and organizing other activities,” Naatz said. The bash was stressful but successful in bringing in $21,000 for the Youth Club. Ashley Rye and Andrea Kvalsten, who are board members, chaired the event. 

In reviewing the job offer, Naatz said “it made her feel good being recognized for work she had done with the club.”

Naatz said she learned a lot working with Sundine. “We offered different things to one another and put our ideas together,” she said.

The youths, Naatz says, “can challenge your patience” but they also challenge you to learn with them. “They are excited about their time at the club,” she said. 

She added that she challenges the kids to come up with their own educational programs. “I give them free reign in choosing crafts, games, science experiments and trivia questions. They are given hands-on experiences.

Besides Naatz, staff at the Youth Club includes Alicia Ptacek, freshman in college and high school students Emily Krampitz, Kassidy Borgen, Gracie Rudlong, Lilly Abbe and Chris Shepard.

Naatz said it is rewarding to see the youths grow as individuals. “They’re not going home and sitting in front of the television; they are learning.”

The kids love to enjoy cooking and baking and also help with cleaning tasks at the club.

“These kids are getting a headstart on life by interacting with others,” Naatz observed. “Our goal is for the kids to have a fun and safe environment to come to,” she further explained.

Community-based help comes to the club in its volunteers and in its financial donations made to the club by the community.

The board is led by co-presidents Bryce Schlichter and Andrea Kvalsten. Ashley Rye is secretary and Amy Hinzmann is treasurer. Other board members are: Robyn Kruckeberg, Craig Kruckeberg, Adam Thoen, Angela Thoen, Lori Arndt, Kaye Toquam and Orlo Toquam.

Even an Austin Bruin junior league hockey player, Lane Krenzen, volunteers once a week at the club. Kaye Toquam is a regular volunteer at the club and is also a board member. “She never stops and often helps the kids with gardening,” Naatz said.

Work has already begun on planning for the annual Rib Fest event on June 30 at the Blooming Prairie Servicemen’s Club.

Naatz says Blooming Prairie is a small community “but we have something other communities don’t have and that’s a youth club.”

The club, Naatz said, is always looking for different people to come and speak. “Having people come in and tell the kids what they do is a great learning tool for us,” she commented.

Soon to be moving to Hartland with her boyfriend Anders Jacobson, Naatz said both have been remodeling an older house. He is an inventory analyst at Cybek’s in Owatonna. “We will have our own little farm animals in Hartland,” Naatz says with anticipation.

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Steele County Times & DCI

Steele County Times
411 E. Main St.
P.O. Box 247
Blooming Prairie, MN 55917

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121 West Main St.
Kasson, MN 55944

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Kasson, MN 55944


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