CEO’s Message – June 2021

Commitment to Community: Continuous Education and Scholarships

We have entered the season of summertime in Central Minnesota. A time for cabin visits and lake time; outdoor hikes and bonfires. It’s also a time to celebrate! Over the course of the last month, many students within our service territory have completed school and celebrated graduation. To the recent graduates, congratulations! We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, whatever they may be.

One of our most powerful cooperative foundations is “Commitment to Community”. Stearns Electric Association demonstrates part of its commitment to our local communities through continuous education and our annual scholarship program.

As a local electric utility provider, Stearns Electric gets asked to share more about what we do with local high school and college groups. In the past, we have provided tours and information on our EnergyWise® programs with students from St. Cloud Technical and Community College, presented on the Cooperative difference to students at the College of St. Benedict, St. John’s University and Ridgewater College. We also meet once a year to present information on the Cooperative to high school students involved in the Stearns West CEO group.

We get many requests to share our Cooperative story with schools, student groups and community programs throughout the area. We review each request on a case-by-case basis and help when we can.

We consistently review our annual programming and continue to provide energy education throughout the community through programs like our 4th-grade classroom demonstrations and Member Engagement Group, and community event sponsorships like Stearns County Breakfast on the Farm.

At the Cooperative, we are also proud to sponsor annual youth scholarships to students throughout our service territory and beyond. The Stearns Electric Association Scholarship Program is made possible by member contributions to Stearns Electric’s Operation Round Up® program. Every year, we award both high school and college scholarships to selected recipients who meet the required criteria.

Our youth are the future of our region. Having a well-educated and well-trained workforce is important to assure that our communities continue to be vibrant and prosperous.

Every July through the Operation Round Up® program, we provide $1,000 to each of the following schools for students studying specific programs. Preference is given to members of Stearns Electric whenever possible.

  • St. Cloud Technical and Community College – electrician program
  • Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Wadena – electrical line worker program
  • Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Jackson – electrical line worker program
  • Dakota County Technical College – electrical line worker program
  • Ridgewater College – electrician program

Stearns Electric also awards $1,000 scholarships on a rotating basis to the 21 local high schools within our service territory annually. The Stearns Electric Scholarship Program is fully funded by Stearns Electric members through the Cooperative’s Operation Round Up® program.

Applicants must be a high school senior enrolled at one of the qualifying local high schools for the current year and must plan to pursue some sort of secondary education. Additionally, the applicant’s parent or guardian must be a Stearns Electric member in their primary residence.

Congratulations to the 2021 winners:

  • Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa High School: Marie Kaiser, Belgrade
  • Cathedral High School: Roman Voss, Richmond
  • ROCORI High School: Chloe Lieser, Cold Spring
  • Sauk Rapids-Rice High School: Aaron Neumann, St. Augusta

Next year, the eligible high schools are Long Prairie-Grey Eagle High School; Little Falls High School; St. Cloud Technical High School; and St. John’s Preparatory School.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the annual NRECA Youth Tour to Washington, D.C. was canceled in both 2020 and 2021. Every year, Stearns Electric sponsors one student to attend as a representative for our Cooperative. Unfortunately, our selected Youth Tour student, Jake Manske, Eden Valley-Watkins High School, was unable to attend.

In early May, we presented Jake with a $1,000 scholarship. He plans to study business and political science at Bethel University beginning this fall. Congratulations, Jake!

Additionally, Stearns Electric also participates in the Northern Cooperative Foundation. Through this organization, scholarships are awarded annually to students who are members of a cooperative, enrolled full-time at an institution of higher learning and taking courses in business or economics that study the principles of cooperatives. Congratulations to this year’s winners:

  • Grace Acheson, Cold Spring
  • Carson Bergquist, Melrose
  • Brian Beutz, Albany
  • Haden Chuba, Swanville
  • Seth Crocker, Little Falls
  • Simon Kroll, Royalton
  • Katie Orth, Randall
  • Brody Uhlenkamp, Osakis
  • Kenna Salo, New York Mills
  • Colby Schertler, Deer Creek

Bolded recipients are members of Stearns Electric.


Robin C. Doege