by Dennis Dalman
What Kris O’Brien likes best about being the new community-education director is that she has seen from the get-go how people in Sartell support the program and how they welcome its constant growth.
O’Brien was named director of the Sartell-St. Stephen Community Education Program last July. Recently, she introduced herself to the Sartell City Council and presented a brief update of the program’s summer-recreation activities. Last summer, there were 3,000 participants in the summer-rec programs, and of that number, 2,000 of them participated just once for the first time. The others, about 1,000, take part in more than one of the recreation programs or are re-taking programs they took the summer before.
There were more than 60 placements for summer jobs via community education, including part-time college students, high school students, adults and many volunteers who work with the children as supervisors or coaches. There is also a program that allows volunteer teenagers to work with their peers or younger children.
“I want to continue our partnership with the city,” O’Brien told the council.
Of course, community-recreation for Sartell and St. Stephen is comprised of far more than summer-rec youth programs. There are also recreation programs, some year-round, for adults and senior citizens. There are a staggering variety of enrichment classes to learn skills, hobbies and other kinds of information.
In addition, community education offers Early Childhood Family Education classes, as well as a pre-school program called Kids’ Connection.
“We have lots of partnerships,” O’Brien noted. “There are 10 teachers in our pre-school program and 10 paraprofessionals in the pre-school and early-childhood program.”
The Sartell-St. Stephen Community Education Program is far larger than O’Brien at first imagined.
“It’s a challenge,” she said last week during an interview with the Sartell Newsleader. “But it’s very exciting to be part of it. This community is so open to growth. It feels good to know there is support for growing programs and new programs.”
Born and raised in Mankato, O’Brien has lived in Kimball for 15 years. She has been a physical education teacher at Kimball High School, as well as that city’s community-education director. O’Brien has a bachelor’s degree in K-12 physical education and an education director’s license. She and her husband, Sean, have three daughters who attend school in Kimball – Erin, 8th grade; Caitlin, 10th grade; and Madelyn, 12th grade. Sean is a sales representative for Fed Ex.
When she’s not busy with her job, O’Brien loves to spend a lot of time watching her children play volleyball and basketball. One of her favorite hobbies is golfing.