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NIACC Pathways to Success honored 71 student leaders

This news story was published on April 20, 2019.
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MASON CITY – North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) recognized 71 student leaders at the 29th annual Pathways to Success luncheon held April 5th in the Muse-Norris Conference Center at NIACC. Honorees were nominated by NIACC faculty and staff for their academic achievement, positive attitude, character, teamwork, and ability to inspire others.

The event also featured a keynote address by 2019 Outstanding Alumnus and North Iowa native, Cerro Gordo County Sheriff, Kevin Pals, Class of 1999. In addition to Pals, long time Forest City educator, Scott D. Bertelsen, Class of 1979 was awarded the 2019 Distinguished Alumnus award.

Pals graduated from Clear Lake High School in 1978 and the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy including K-9 School in 1983. In 1991, he graduated from D.A.R.E. School. He attended NIACC as a non-traditional student and graduated with an associate’s degree in criminal justice in December 1999.
Pals started his career in law enforcement as a Clear Lake Police Department dispatcher from 1978 – 1980, joining the Winona County Minnesota Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher and correctional officer and then began working with the Mason City Police Department in 1982, holding positions as a police officer, K-9 handler, D.A.R.E. Officer, and Investigator. Pals became sheriff of Cerro Gordo County in 2001.

Pals is an active member of the Mason City Youth Task Force, Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT), North Iowa Youth For Christ, the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Council, Crime Stoppers of North Central Iowa, Child Abuse Council, and North Iowa Domestic & Sexual Abuse Community Coalition. For the past 17 years, he has served as a board member of the NIACC Criminal Justice Advisory Board taking a special interest in the success of NIACC’s Criminal Justice Program and the program’s students. He has been an integral part of the long-term success of the program.

Pals shared his pathway to success with the student honorees. He noted school was not his strong suit. In fact, his high school years were about sports and friends. However, while a senior, a high school friend piqued his interest by recommending the Clear Lake Police Department’s reserves. Pals attended a meeting and he was hooked. Pals talked about barriers to success and encouraged students to pay attention to them. He noted five barriers (distraction, defeat, discouragement, doubt and delay) and expanded on overcoming them. He also shared his path to overcoming his own barriers through his faith, caring teachers, supportive family, and adult mentors. Pals also offered suggestions to students, he said, “Surround yourself with people that respect you for who you are,” he continued, “don’t say every word you are thinking, every word is your choice and last, trust your instincts.”

Bertelsen who grew up in Sheffield, has taught English and coached speech at Forest City High School for 39 years. He is known around school as “Mr. B” or “Bert” and plans to retire this year.

Bertelsen graduated with the NIACC class of 1979 and went on to the University of Northern Iowa obtaining his bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education with a minor in speech education in 1981. Bertelsen has spent his life’s career teaching and impacting students who’ve participated in speech, instilling in them the confidence and the skills to communicate in front of an audience. He has been a strong advocate for the arts – especially the performing arts and has been a key part of building the strong speech program at Forest City High School. He has also given back to the Forest City community involving young people in musicals and plays serving as producer.

Bertelsen was awarded KIMT’s Golden Apple award two times. He received outstanding speech, theatre, debate, and theatre educator awards from the National Forensics Society in 2011. Bertelsen was inducted into the Iowa High School Speech Association Hall of Fame in November 2018. He has served the Iowa High School Speech Association (IHSSA) as a district officer, district contest manager and judge. He also has served on the Coaches Convention Committee and other groups to support the mission of the IHSSA.

Students honored at the event included:


Luke Arrowood


Addyson Clark

Blue Earth, MN

Nicholas Schonrock

Bogota Cundinamarca, Columbia

Julian Echeverri Spaggiari

Bruck Salzburg, Austria

Katharina Josipovic


Emily DeBower

Charles City

Tina Slinger

Clear Lake

Grant Dieken

Emily Endelman

Colac VIC, Australia

Caitlin Serle


Alexandra Hable


Cailey Weaver

Eden Prairie, MN

Vaughn Deinhart

Ryan Swanson

Forest City

Benjamin Roisen


Candie Cueva


Tate Powers


Kala Rose

Clay Shultz


Parker Allen

Douglas Steinhoff


Amanda Poley

Tyler Swenson


Jonathan Hernandez


Ashley Jolly

Lake Mills

Dylan Cavett

Little Cedar

Keith Adams


Emily Overy

Mason City

Ashley Alert

Matthew Bormann

Scottie Brown

Cyle Calhoun

Sarah Dodd

Benjamin Fitzgerald

Nathan Hanna

Timothy Hoffmann

Kyle Lang

Morgan Luecht

Christian Paloma

Jill Paul

McGwire Skogen

Jacob Tefft

FaLicia Tucker

Trey Wiegmann

Medicine Lake, MN

Thomas Skoro

Nora Springs

JC Houdek

Jonathan Opkis

Hannah Wagner

Northbrook, IL

Michael Oh


Klaire Chisholm

Annmari Milbrandt

McKenzie Mohl

Hanna Mullenbach

Elizabeth Valasek

Perth, Australia

Julian Giustiniano


Ryan Bartling

Sydney Fullerton

Saitama-shi, Japan

Sae Oikawa

St. Ansgar

Benjamin Boerjan

John Patterson

Colin Salz

Tauranga, New Zealand

Rachel Kontze

Telegraphy Points, NSW, Australia

Kirrilly Hughes

Thornlands, QLD, Australia

Kyle Pike


Ashley Johnson


Denise Thompson

Walton-on-Thames, United Kingdom

Jack Woods


Tahya Campbell

Adriane Cole

Cecilia Novotney

NIACC’s 29th annual Pathways to Success event was sponsored by the Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors, Tony and Sue Coloff, and the NIACC Student Government.

The NIACC Alumni Association was formed in 1991 and is structured under the NIACC Foundation. The NIACC Alumni Association’s mission is cultivating relationships with alumni to support, advance, and ensure the mission of the college.

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One Response to NIACC Pathways to Success honored 71 student leaders

  1. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 21, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Pal’s needs to concentrate on his own family. Not hearing good things,.