Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as "continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition." Pushing forward through obstacles isn't always enjoyable, but the rippling effects of perseverance can have positive impacts not just on oneself but also on the people around them.
In fall 2017, a student named Sonia Boyer took a 3D Art class at Normandale taught by Art Instructor Sheryl McRoberts. Sonia had recently graduated from Richfield High School and was taking extra classes to prepare for applying to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She has no arms, and used her feet to cut, sculpt, draw, and shape. With perseverance and help from her high school teacher, Jen Kraus, Sonia met the challenge in front of her and went forward with the class.
Sonia's story was featured in this publication and read by longtime Normandale Foundation supporter Ernie Lindstrom. Ernie was inspired by the Richfield graduate's story of perseverance along with the support of her former teacher. He worked with the Normandale Foundation, and the other members of the John E. Desmond and Janet C. Desmond Foundation to donate $5,000 to the Art Department.
"When I told the Art Department, they were just flabbergasted," Normandale Foundation Director of Development Jane Fenton recalled. "Up until then, we didn't really have much of an entry point for donors to give to the departments."
After donating to the Art Department, the Desmond Foundation agreed to make a pair of $5,000 gifts to two departments chosen by a committee of Normandale Foundation board members for the 2019-20 academic year.
The Hospitality and Business Management Department and the Math and Computer Science Department were the chosen recipients. The Hospitality Department will use the funds to enhance its online learning opportunities for students.
"The equipment [we purchase] will be utilized to interview hospitality and business leaders in the greater Twin Cities, conduct virtual property tours, and allow faculty to create quality content that will assist with creating a more visually engaging classroom experience," said Hospitality Management instructor Brandon Supernault.
The Math and Computer Science Department plans to use the opportunity to purchase computing, robotics, machine learning, and A.I., engineering, and general automation equipment to expose their students to new opportunities.
"Normandale has a strong STEM area and having this equipment will put us even a step higher," explained Computer Science instructor Jim Polzin. "The students will benefit by having access to equipment that they would be using on the job or in a lab, equipment that most people, in general, don't get access to."
The ripples of perseverance will continue to float out into the future, as the John E. Desmond and Janet C. Desmond Foundation has expressed a desire to continue their support of Normandale students and departments.
"We were very impressed with all of the great things the Art Department did with the initial grant we provided," said Lindstrom. "That inspired us to continue to provide the funds for other departments. It is impressive to see all of the great ideas Normandale instructors have to enhance the experiences of the students, and we are happy to do whatever we can to help provide the opportunities."