Owatonna Social Worker Honored for Building ‘Bridges’
Sue Schroeder has spent years helping people get to know one another. A social worker in the Owatonna school system starting in 1990, she's worked with students of preschool age through high school. Between that work and her volunteering with several local service groups, Schroeder was presented with the Paul Harris/Vern White award from the Owatonna Noon Rotary Club.
Schroeder spoke of her time with the Cultural Diversity Network and the CulturFest event held annual in Owatonna, "Our work was focused on provided a celebration where the citizens of our community could feel their culture and traditions were valued. My favorite times were the moment I would take pause and look around me on the day of the event. Over 50 flags from all over the world were carried in that parade. Each reflecting someone in our town."
"People from all over the community were standing near each other watching watching the performers...getting to know each other across picnic tables. There was pride and laughter and awe."
"The synergy of this experience made my cup feel so full of gratitude. Witnessing these interactions taking place led to my resolve of hope to the future of Owatonna. We together become more than we ever would be individually when we become acquainted, learn about each other, share our stories, and roll up our sleeves."
In a news release from Rotary publicity chair Todd Hale, "The award recognizes a non-Rotarian whose life and actions exemplify the spirit of the motto, 'Service Above Self' and exhibits the characteristics that represent the values" of Rotary.
Schroeder moved to South Dakota as a young child with her mother from her birthplace of Giessen, Germany. She remembers the kindness shown by others, notably her American grandparents, toward her mother as she acclimated to a new country, "They provided a bridge. Helping people new to living in Owatonna so they would have a bridge where they would feel welcome and accepted while they got on their feet became a strong driver for me."
She and her husband David moved to Owatonna in 1987 and raised four children, Andrew, Chelsea, Rachel, and Erin. Schroeder was happy to have all four, along with a grandchild and her mother, on hand Monday at the Owatonna Country Club for the presentation.
In the news release, Schroeder stated, "I feel grateful to receive the Paul Harris Fellow honor from the Rotary Club. It has been a blessing to work in a career where I look forward to the challenges of each day. Supporting students to find the best in themselves and assisting families to provide for their children has been a very rewarding aspect of my career's work."
Many of Schroeder's coworkers attended the ceremony as well. She was nominated for the award by Dr. Beth Gilthvedt.
Previous recipients of the award include Les Abraham (2019), Jerry Ganfield (2018), Carol Zetah (2017), Arlan Burmeister (2016) Dave 'Ole' Olson (2015) and Sr. Franchon Pirkl (2014).