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EDITORIAL: More mental health help for kids

Free Press - 9/2/2023

Sep. 2—Thumbs up to an expansion of a program for Greater Mankato area students that provides more behavioral health services.

Last year, the Greater Mankato Area United Way started a pilot program with a small number of school locations, with a navigator working with the schools to help elementary students and their families access mental health services.

Now, thanks to grants, three more navigators can be added, and the program will reach 13 districts in Blue Earth, Nicollet, Le Sueur and Waseca counties.

Blue Earth County, the city of Mankato and Waseca County are all pitching in with grant funds to expand the program and the United Way and other local nonprofits are helping fund the services.

The expanded services come at a critical time. There has long been a demand for services for kids and the pandemic significantly increased the need for school-aged children.

The program is a big help for parents who are going through a trying time, is a benefit for teachers who know the kids they teach are getting the help they need and, of course, it's a huge benefit to the kids who are struggling.

Program flying high

Thumbs up to the Minnesota State University aviation program's acquisition of a second flight simulator.

The simulator, paid for by flight instruction contractor North Star Aviation, was put on display late last week. It figures to greatly ease the program's bottleneck in training pilots. The program now has more than 700 students enrolled, including 240 incoming freshmen.

MSU boasts the state's only four-year, accredited aviation program, and that program is certainly positioned to fill a need. Congressional testimony earlier this year warned of a "tsunami" of airline pilot retirements — roughly half of current pilots will reach mandatory retirement age in the next 15 years.

The big airlines, such as Delta, are filling their openings by hiring away pilots from regional airlines, so the greatest portion of the pilot shortage is being felt by the feeder lines. A House committee was told in April that 136 airports have lost at least a quarter of their service, and 11 airports in smaller cities that connect to larger hubs have lost service entirely.

MSU's not filling that hole by itself. But there are clearly jobs in the field to be had, and the new simulator will be a help.

Picture perfect

Thumbs up to everyone involved in the Mankato Community Collage project.

From photographer Josh Madson's idea of capturing portraits of as many community members as possible to all the people who showed up to participate, the exhibit at the Coffee Hag reflects the joy of living here.

The variety of people in the 800 or so photos — including young people, old people, people of color, people with their pets, people with their partners, people with their kids, people with their friends — is not only a joy to look at, but it makes you realize the depth of humanity here. Expressions of whimsy, joy, thoughtfulness, camaraderie and love are just a few of the emotions that shine through in the black and white photos.

And in the characteristic cooperative way we do things here, people came forward to help when Madson started coordinating the project. Bethany Lutheran College lent key equipment and many helpers volunteered for every aspect of the project. And most of all, area people showed up at multiple sessions to be photographed as part of the community exhibit.

Madson's artistic vision was to create an igloo of photos — a shelter of humans encompassing the space.

What a wonderful, heartwarming concept. The exhibit displays the vibrancy of this community and makes us all appreciate each other a little bit more.

The photos will be on display through September.


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