Skip to main navigation.

Local Cooperatives Visit St. Croix Central Fifth Graders

Cooperatives In Our Schools unit invites local employees to talk to students about cooperativesSara Swenson, of AgStar Financial Services

HAMMOND, Wis., March 2, 2016 – Representatives from three local cooperatives met with fifth graders at St. Croix Central Middle School on Friday, Feb. 19, to discuss the impact of cooperatives in our communities.

The presentations were part of the Cooperatives In Our Schools unit the class has been working on in their homerooms since the end of last semester. Speakers were Sara Swenson, AgStar Financial Services; Gabrielle Peskar and Tom Overby, Countryside Cooperative; and Dana Bolwerk, St. Croix Electric Cooperative. The variety of speakers highlights some of the numerous industries where cooperatives exist.

Cooperatives In Our Schools was developed by the late Brian Kulas in 2011. Kulas, Tom Overby & Gabrielle Peskar, of Countryside Cooperativechairman of the board at Taylor Electric Cooperative (Medford, Wis.) and a former school administrator, knew first-hand the time demands on teachers. Cooperatives In Our Schools was designed to provide a trained substitute teacher to present a co-op curriculum to fifth-grade classrooms over the course of two days.

In 2015, St. Croix Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors wanted to bring the program to St. Croix County. After working with Federated Youth Foundation (Madison, Wis.) – the organization that now oversees training for the program – training was set up, but with a twist.

“We kept hearing from teachers and administrators either that students were not in the same classroom all day or that it was rare to have a substitute teacher in one classroom two days in a row,” Bolwerk said. “So we worked with Herman Seebandt, vice-chairman of the board for Federated Youth Foundation, to train all of St. Croix Central’s fifth grade teachers so they could incorporate the unit into their homerooms.

Dana Bolwerk, of St. Croix Electric Cooperative“The teachers have been great at keeping the lines of communication open amongst themselves and with us,” Bolwerk continued. “And the feedback has been positive. Being able to join with AgStar and Countryside Cooperative for the speaker activity in February was wonderful. It was a real-life example of the sixth Cooperative Principle of ‘Cooperation Among Cooperatives.’”   

Teacher Kerrie Been shared the following student quotes from the speaker day:

“I learned that cooperatives give members’ money back to them!” Jack Dalske said.
“I learned from the cooperative speakers that they love what they do,” Delaney Lloyd said.
“I have learned that cooperatives are member and community owned,” Kennedy Bexell said.

Been elaborated.

“The kids enjoy learning about something they didn’t know about before,” she said. “It’s hands-on learning, working in a team to create their own co-op and elect officers.”

Fellow teacher, Mindy Rudiger agreed.

“Excitement. I see the kids get so excited when we work on this unit,” she said. “It's real life and it fits perfectly into our homeroom time. It's a time for them to work together as one."

Other fifth-grade teachers working on the unit are Holly Heinbuch, Chance Langeness and Katie Tate. Bolwerk said St. Croix Electric plans to reach out to additional fifth grade teachers and expand the program to other schools in St. Croix County. The unit ends with students creating and producing their own radio ad telling the audience why they should join a cooperative. Each classroom votes for their favorite ad and St. Croix Electric will sponsor the winning ads later this spring on Thunder Country 95.7.

Fifth grade teachers and administrators interested in incorporating Cooperatives In Our Schools into their classroom can contact Bolwerk at 715-796-7000 or

About St. Croix Electric Cooperative
St. Croix Electric Cooperative (SCEC) was incorporated on Nov. 5, 1937, as a result of five farmers determined to bring electricity to rural St. Croix County, Wis. On May 24, 1939, electricity was delivered to the first account. Today, the Cooperative operates 1,760 miles of distribution lines that power nearly 11,000 meters. SCEC helps members realize the Cooperative Difference through Commitment to Community grants, scholarships, rebates, and solutions to conserve and use energy wisely. More information is available online at, and on social media: @StCroixElecCoop (Twitter) and St. Croix County Energizer (Facebook).

About AgStar
AgStar Financial Services, ACA, headquartered in Mankato, Minn., employs more than 550 full-time team members. The company is part of the national Farm Credit System and has a public mission to serve 69 counties in Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. AgStar’s industry specialization, client segments and market delivery systems result in diversification nationwide. The company has expertise in the corn, soybean, swine, dairy and bio-energy industries. AgStar has developed successful programs in loans, leases, crop insurance, consulting and rural home mortgages. As a value-added financial services cooperative, AgStar allocates patronage dividends to its 15,400 stockholders. The company is also committed to giving back to rural residents, organizations and communities through AgStar’s Fund for Rural America. Visit for more information.

About Countryside Cooperative
Countryside Cooperative, with headquarters in Durand, is a locally owned full-service and supply agricultural co-op located in West-Central Wisconsin. Countryside specializes in Agronomy, Grain, Animal Nutrition, and Energy/Home Heating products and services. Countryside Co-op also oversees multiple convenience stores, ACE Hardware Stores and Tire and Auto Centers spread-out across over 24 West-Central Wisconsin Communities. Countryside Cooperative serves its 40,000 plus members with a mission to deliver positive customer experiences and exceptional value in a financially responsible manner. For more information please visit



Silly 5th graders

Powered by Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Logo