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Rising above

Christ Krangenbring (center) conducted a Youth as Resources meeting, one of many youth organizations that she volunteers for.

A child's upbringing has a major impact on how they grow as an adult.

Either a person can wallow in self-pity or rise above the situation and become a positive impact on those around them.

Chris Kragenbring, English teacher and youth volunteer at Jefferson High School (JHS) in Alexandria, chose the latter of those life choices.

The experiences that Kragenbring endured as a youth made her want to "be the change" in her life.

As a young teenager going into high school in Morris, Kragenbring recalls her persona as that of rebel.

"I was a bit naughty during school," she said. "I was hanging out with the wrong group of friends and not showing up for school."

While it seems that this did not affect Kragenbring, she was knee deep in troubles.

"For the majority of the time, I was falling behind in school," she said. "The things I did came back to bite me in the worst ways."

Also, her actions and attitude affected how others viewed and treated her.

"Some viewed me as a lost cause and others decided that I was not going to make it anywhere," she said.

This sense of awareness turned into a source of motivation for her.

"I was actually motivated by the people who did not want anything to do with me," she said. "I wanted to show them that I could change and make a difference for myself."

Kragenbring flew through her senior year with nothing less than an A- in any class.

"I worked much harder than I ever did before," she said. "I wanted to make every grade count."

Kragenbring was ambitioned to become an English teacher after her second semester of senior English.

"I was originally in an honors English class, but all the classes for second semester were filled," she said. "I was upset that I had to enroll in a regular English class."

In her English class, the teacher gave her a rather different role.

Instead of just being a student, Kragenbring was put in charge of instructing the class throughout the semester.

"It was an experience unlike any other," she said. "The teacher relied on me to teach my classmates and that was an amazing feeling."

Full of ambition, she attended the University of Minnesota in Morris where she majored in English and speech communications and minored in secondary education and coaching.

Upon graduating, she took a teaching job in Wahpeton, North Dakota. It was there she learned that if a job gets boring, get out of it.

"I was approached by the teacher who was right next door to me," she said. "He told me with a dull look on his face that the best part of teaching is June, July and August. I told myself that if I ever got to that point that I would switch careers."

Eventually moving to the Alexandria area, Kragenbring worked at Central Junior High School for a year before taking a position at the newly built Discovery Middle School (DMS)

After 12 years at DMS, Kragenbring decided it was time for a change. She took an English teaching position at Jefferson High School (JHS) and has been teaching there for seven years.

Besides teaching, Kragenbring has also adopted a strong passion for youth guidance and leadership.

"If it's a good opportunity for my students, I will jump on it," she said.

Kragenbring has been involved with Youth As Resources for seven years through the United Way, Read to Succeed at local elementary schools, DARE presentations and Youth Health Day at DMS.

Kragenbring has taught on-track English classes at JHS for seven years. This is a class for students who have academic and social troubles in their lives. Each class stays together for all three years of high school to ensure that they get to know one another.

"I was only required to teach the class for a certain amount of years, but I have chosen to keep it part of my main curriculum," Kragenbring said. "The students are so diverse and I get to know them so well that I cannot give up this opportunity.

"I get the privilege of getting to know the students for three years," she added. "That is something that I would like to see throughout most high schools, people that stick together and that are there to get to know one another."

Special moments come when Kragenbring's students accomplish their goals.

"When a student accomplishes a goal, I am thrilled," she said. "When their mind kind of clicks I can see the happiness of what they accomplished.

"When that moment hits, where the student has overcome his or her struggle, it is irreplaceable," she added. "Individual success for a student is the greatest self-accomplishment."

Kragenbring thinks that everyone should not be afraid to reach out and use their skills to help others succeed with overcoming their hardships.

"God put me here for a reason," she said. "So stand up for what you believe in and make a difference in someone's life."

Cut line for photo: Mrs.Kragenbring (center) conducting a Youth As Resources board meeting, one of the many youth organizations that she volunteers for.