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Nelson, Pavelko named to All-Minn. Academic Team

Submitted Photo Rachel Pavelko (left), 19, of Worthington; and Genna Nelson, 23, of Elgin, were the two Minnesota West Community and Technical College students named to the 2010 All-Minnesota Academic Team.

WORTHINGTON -- Two Minnesota West women were among 40 students named to the 2010 All-Minnesota Academic Team for their academic achievements and community service.

Genna Nelson and Rachel Pavelko, both students at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, are amid the state's nominees for the All-USA Academic Team for Community, Technical and Junior College Students.

The recipients all attend one of the 25 community and technical colleges in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) and were honored at a luncheon earlier this month in Eagan.

Nelson, an Elgin native, will graduate with her associate's degree in nursing this spring. She also serves as the nursing program's class representative for the nursing advisory board.

"I listen to my classmates," she explained. "I overhear things and come to teachers with students' likes, dislikes. ... Some students, if they have a big problem, they come to the teacher right away, but a lot of times they don't."

As part of her work study, she works as a Licensed Practical Nurse at Lakeview Assisted Living in Heron Lake. Nelson is also active in the American Red Cross, Books for Africa, Adopt-A-Highway and the Fools Five Road Race, which raises funds for cancer research.

She has a 4.0 grade point average and received an Academic Excellence Award in Nursing in 2009.

But perhaps most impressive is that she did it all in the face of personal tragedy. Shortly after Nelson began the L.P.N. program in the fall of 2008, her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

"It was tough, but she gave me my drive to do this," she said. "It made me stronger." Through the Adopt-A-Highway program, she adopted Minnesota 247 in Wabasha County in memory of her mother Jill.

Nelson has plenty on the horizon, too: She hopes to earn her bachelor's degree in nursing from Minnesota State University, Mankato and work as a registered nurse; though she has also considered an eventual career in nursing education. She will wed longtime beau Todd Scripture on May 15 -- the day after her planned graduation.

"I do what I can to balance my life and be part of the campus and community and work and family," she said.

Worthington native Pavelko also boasts a 4.0 grade point average and is working toward the Pharmacy Degree Program at South Dakota State University.

"I like chemistry; I enjoy the subject," she explained. "I get to do something I like and help people, so that's good."

After completing the four-year program at SDSU, she hopes to move back to the area and work as a pharmacist.

Pavelko is a three-sport athlete, playing volleyball, basketball and softball for the Lady Jays. She received Mooty Academic, Reach Academic and Minnesota Achieve scholarships and won the Minnesota College Athletic Conference 2008 All-Academic Award in volleyball. She also made the National Junior College Athletic Association All-American 2nd Team in softball and the Southern Division 2nd Team in volleyball, and was named MCAC Southern Division Player of the Week.

At Minnesota West, Pavelko also serves as president of the Student Senate and Phi Theta Kappa vice president of fellowship. She said she's enjoyed her busy community college experience.

"I like community college because it's small and you know a lot of people and they seem to know you as an individual," she said.

To be nominated to the Minnesota team, a student must be enrolled at a Minnesota two-year college and expect to graduate during the 2009-2010 academic year, have completed at least 12 semester credits and have a grade point average of at least 3.25.

Honorees were selected based on biographical information, letters of recommendation, academic performance, demonstration of leadership, and campus and community service. Applicants also wrote an essay describing a specific educational experience they have had while attending a two-year college that has transformed the students' thinking about learning or the future.

Students selected for the All-USA academic team receive stipends or plaques. The 2010 All-USA team members will be announced in April at the American Association of Community Colleges convention in Seattle.

The All-USA Academic Team program is a program sponsored annually by Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges, USA Today and the American Association of Community Colleges. The Minnesota All-State Academic Team is sponsored by the Minn-Wi-Kota Region of Phi Theta Kappa, the participating colleges and the MnSCU Office of the Chancellor.

State academic teams were introduced in 1994 to provide scholarships and scholastic recognition to Phi Theta Kappa members.