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Worthington man named Sioux Falls Mentor of the Year

Submitted Photo Worthington native Carl Nagel, of Dell Rapids, S.D., poses with the Mentor of the Year Award he received for his work with the Lutheran Social Services School-Based Mentor Program in Sioux Falls schools.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Carl Nagel isn't sure how his wife was able to keep it a secret.

Nagel's wife, Beth, knew the Worthington native was going to receive the Citibank Outstanding Mentor of the Year Award for his work with students in the Sioux Falls School District -- but he didn't find out until the annual Lutheran Social Services Mentor Appreciation Breakfast on Friday.

"I'm still kind of in shock that it was given to me," Nagel said. "I'm a pretty hard person to keep a secret from, but somehow my wife knew, and the school knew, and they didn't tell me."

He knew Jefferson had named him its Mentor of the Year, but he didn't know he had earned top recognition from among 17 nominees from schools in the district -- and 1,478 mentors in the school-based program.

"I was kind of shocked, and I started to cry. They started reading for the Mentor of the Year Award, and after 10 seconds, after they read a couple lines, I looked at my wife and said 'It's me,'" Nagel recalled. "All the people who were nominees, any one of them could have got it; I feel really honored to have it bestowed upon me. Worthington was great when I was a little boy (with) giving to me, and I feel that I want to give back to the community that I live in."

Nagel's mother Jacoba echoed that sentiment.

"The teachers of District 518 and friends and church leaders gave him great guidance along the way to help him achieve this," she said. "It made me mighty proud."

Nagel, who lives in Dell Rapids, S.D., has worked with his current mentee, a fifth-grader at Jefferson Elementary for four years.

"I work for Wells Fargo Financial in Sioux Falls, and ... they like us to volunteer in our communities. I got involved with school-based mentoring six years ago," he explained.

He meets with his student one hour a week, playing games, enjoying the outdoors or just hanging out.

In his nomination letter, portions of which Beth posted on the family's blog, Jefferson Site Coordinator Andreè Johnson wrote: "Carl is a selfless, kind individual who puts others before himself. ... Carl's accomplishments are seen in his relationship with his mentee, 'M.' In 'M''s own words, 'Carl is more than a mentor-he's like family; like the dad I never had. Carl is one of the few people I talk to and he is the only person I share my feelings with. He's nice; he loves to play games like basketball and Connect Four. But most of all he's one of those people who care.'"

The school gave Nagel a photograph of his mentee and him, and he received a memento clock from LSS.

"Sometimes I feel like what I'm doing isn't good enough," Nagel admitted. "But from what my student said about me, I know that I have made a difference in his life."