by Dennis Dalman
Young entrepreneur and visionary Alex Bertsch of Sartell is being honored as one of the two winners in the third annual “2 Under 20” awards by the St. Cloud Times.
Bertsch, the son of Carolyn and Matt Bertsch, is a senior at Sartell High School.
The other winner is Georgina Simon, a student at St. Cloud Tech High School.
Another Sartell High School senior, Aidan Speckhard, was named one of the three runners-up for the award. Those three will also be feted at the Jan. 23 awards, along with Bertsch and Simon. The other runners-up are Anna Panek, 17, of Avon, who is a senior at Albany High School; and Anthony Kampa, a senior at St. Cloud Cathedral High School.
Previous “2 Under 20” honorees included Sartell students Gopi Ramanathan and Nicole Yang in 2015 and in 2016 one of the winners was Josh Maricle-Roberts, who lives between Sartell and St. Joseph.
The “2 Under 20” awards are given to youth who show leadership skills, passionate commitment to their work and to others, and an eagerness to make the world a better place.
For tickets to the awards banquet, go online to https://tickets.sctimes.com.
Alex Bertsch has been an imaginative, self-styled entrepreneur because of a hobby he developed when he was only 10 – gardening on his grandfather’s farm near Milaca. That hobby soon turned into a business. He started an organic garden in his own backyard in Sartell and then on the land of a friend of his father. Bertsch also grows highly nutritious microgreens indoors.
He sells salad ingredients and microgreens through his business, which he calls Epic by Nature. He makes the sales in person at local venues and online.
As a high-school senior, Bertsch is also involved in track, in a program called Supermileage, which involved racing a fuel-efficient car and in Envirothon that involves the issues of ecology, forestry and wildlife.
Bertsch has also become an accomplished, confident public speaker and shares his wealth of gardening knowledge with many people, including the ones he loves to meet and converse with at farmers’ markets.
In honoring Bertsch, the St. Cloud Times and others offered high praise for him and his approach to work and daily living. They all agreed he demonstrates passionate commitment, a topnotch work ethic and an eagerness to share his knowledge with other people far and wide. He is a born teacher, and some of his network contacts are worldwide, living in places as far flung as New Zealand, England and Jamaica.
Bertsch is a long-time believer and practitioner of organic farming and sustainability. However, he is a down-to-earth realist, not a starry-eyed dreamer, when it comes to those topics.
Changes toward sustainability, Bertsch said he believes, will come from more entrepreneur projects that will involve developing innovative technologies, architecture, land use and landscaping design. Those things will have to become profitable for the people and companies that introduce sustainability methods, Bertsch said.
Bertsch is considering two paths of study – either business management and marketing at St. Cloud State University; or perhaps the electrician program at St. Cloud Technical and Community College.
Aidan Speckhard, son of Maureen Putnam and Thomas Speckhard, has been his class president for four years. He is also a member of the National Honor Society, a ping-pong club he founded and a participant in Sabre Splash. Splash is a mentorship program to encourage diversity, understanding and inclusiveness at Sartell High School.
Speckhard, a soccer player, has performed in GREAT theater productions and in the orchestra for school stage productions. He has been an accomplished drummer since age 9; volunteers at his church, leading a youth band for its contemporary-music services; and he’s also a member of the Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota.
Speckhard and other students partner with the Make-a-Wish Foundation to help raise funds for children – the latest for a Sartell girl’s wish to go to Disney World in Florida.
His current goal is to partner with the Yes Network in creating a diversity club at Sartell High School, a club that now has 25 members. Last fall, Speckhard and about a dozen other students staged a school walkout to bring attention to the 800,000 or so “Dreamers,” people who came as children to the United States from other countries who had been granted provisional citizenship status under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program, DACA for short. DACA is now in jeopardy and could be revoked unless the U.S Congress re-approves it.
Speckhard and the other demonstrators want to bring awareness to that program and the “Dreamers” to the people in the Sartell area.
Although he has not chosen a specific college yet, Speckhard plans to do a double major – neuroscience and music.
Georgina Simon is, along with Bertsch, one of the two top winners of “2 Under 20.”
The daughter of Akim and Anona Akway, she graduated from Tech High School and is now a first-year student at the University of Minnesota.
She was extremely active in high school – in speech, choir, theater, the International Club and as a volunteer for many causes, including helping lower the racial tensions that had surfaced a couple of years ago at Tech.
She was also active in sports – volleyball, basketball, track.
Simon came to the United States nearly 20 years ago with her parents, who were originally from South Sudan, an African country torn by violent conflicts. The Akways fled to a refugee camp in nearby Ethiopia and eventually were allowed to come to the United States via the immigration lottery program.
Simon’s goal is to become a clinical psychologist and perhaps work in underdeveloped countries to help lower stigmas against mental illness and help people suffering from mental anxieties.