Student, grandmother, volunteer and veteran, Donna Swenson is in her third semester at Southeast Technical. At 55 years of age, she decided to pursue a degree to set an example for her grandchildren.
An Individualized Studies major, Donna has been taking a variety of Criminal Justice courses and has found them to be helpful in her volunteer work. She has volunteered with the Pierce County Veterans Treatment Court, where, as court coordinator, she had weekly contact with veterans who were in the court system, helping them stay on track with treatment and recovery. Now she serves as a court mentor for veterans in need.
English instructor Peter Beurskens notes how Swenson lives what she learns."Donna has been great to have in class because she takes writing and learning seriously. She is that ideal student who takes what she is learning in class and applies it to her life experience to come up with essays and other writings of real value - to herself and to her readers," he says.
Donna is very community minded. In addition to her work with Pierce County, she also serves as the local Legion's Honor Guard Commander. (That's her in the photo at right, holding the blue flag.) The group provides the traditional three-volley salute for 14 different cemeteries on Memorial Day and dozens of funerals throughout the year, as well as school presentations. She also helps a friend - who has been diagnosed with MS - with her physical therapy two to three times per week. She helps with cookouts and fly-fishing outings for veterans who are patients at the VA Medical Traumatic Brain Injury Center in Minneapolis. She is a volunteer for a Memorial Motorcycle Run for the American Cancer Society, the annual Pierce County Veterans fund raising Golf Tournament, Polka Fest, Cheese Curd Days and more.
Perhaps Donna's community-minded attitude is a result of her 32 years in the military. Her job has taken her away from home for long stretches at times. She retired in 2009 from the United States Army. She served for 20 years in the 652nd Engineer Company in Ellsworth, WI, and 12 years at Ft. Snelling, during which time she was deployed to Guantanamo Bay for over a year. She was mobilized four years state side at a variety of bases across the U.S., working as a Logistical Liaison Officer with troops deploying to and from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's been interesting getting to know people from all over the world," says Swenson. "It feels like the kids I worked with were part of my family, I was like the mom."
As Swenson's English teacher, Beurskens has read many of Swenson writings. "In all of her writings, the theme of community emerges, whether that is the community of family, military or her town and neighbors," he comments.
As Veteran's Day approaches, Southeast Technical honors Donna Swenson and all of our nation's veterans. We will honor Veteran's Day with ceremonies at 12 noon on Thursday, November 7 in Winona and 12 noon on Friday November 8 in Red Wing.