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FOLEY – When A.J. Rahm played the saxophone for the first time in fifth grade, though he did not realize it at the time, it was the beginning of a relationship with music that would forge a clear path into the business world for the Foley High School senior. Now having earned a $1,500 scholarship April 12 from the Central Minnesota Arts Board to continue with his pursuit in the music industry, that sentiment has only been solidified. Rahm was one of 20 central Minnesota students awarded with a scholarship, which was geared toward those pursuing the arts in college. As an application, Rahm recorded himself playing a self-transcribed rendition of “Wrinkle” by Thank You Scientist. He said the transcription was a grueling, two-year process, and it started out of affection for the music and his favorite instrument.

FOLEY – The Foley High School community packed a hot, muggy gymnasium June 3 at the school in Foley to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2023 Foley High School seniors. As graduates walked across the stage, grabbed their diplomas and flipped their tassels, and as friends and family fanned themselves with programs, Foley’s senior class put a cap on their high school academic careers. In some instances, the graduation ceremony was a solemn celebration. But, for the FHS senior class, in line with its motto, “A sweet ending to a new beginning,” there were plenty of moments of enthusiastic celebration for their accomplishments.

Enshrined after excellence

FOLEY – Growing up as an athlete at Foley Public Schools, Paul Backowski looked up to the members of the Foley Athletic Hall of Fame and one day hoped to be enshrined in the hall himself. Through an incredible athletic career defined by hard work and drive, the 2005 Foley High School graduate achieved his longtime goal, as the three-sport Falcons athlete was inducted into the hall of fame to kick off Foley Night of Excellence May 21 at Foley High School in Foley. “I’m really thankful it happened, and it’s an opportunity to really reflect on how influential coaches, teammates and teachers were on my development both as an athlete and as a person,” Backowski said. Backowski fell in love with sports through his grandfather, who frequently browsed sports sections of newspapers at the local and national level as a huge fan of sports. This made an impression on Backowski, who began a long-winding period of athletic participation in fifth grade, starting with football and basketball but expanding to anything that caught his eye. “When it was pickup basketball, softball, kickball at recess, whatever it was, from an early age, it was fun to play sports,” he said. “I had fun playing any sort of competition.” And as he grew, Backowski developed a physical profile perfect for competing in a multitude of athletics. By the time he arrived on the Foley Falcons varsity football team as a ninth grader, he stood at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, and his large frame made him a strong fit for what he eventually established as his premier position on the gridiron: offensive tackle. “Coach Larry Herm came up to me in practice when I was in ninth grade and said, ‘You like pancakes?’” Backowski said. “I was like, ‘Pancakes? I love pancakes.’ We had pancakes once a week, and I was thinking, ‘Is he going to invite me to breakfast?’” Coach Herm later explained to Backowski that a pancake meant something entirely different in football; a pancake block is when an offensive lineman drives a defender back with so much force that they end up flat on their back. As it turns out, Backowski loved that, too, along with all aspects of football. “There’s 11 players on the field at any time,” Backowski said. “If one person out of 11 goes the wrong way or doesn’t do their job, it doesn’t result in a positive play. But, if all 11 players are working together and execute the plan and play, then as a team, you generally find success.” With Backowski serving as a dominant tackle and defensive end, Foley indeed reached high levels of success. The Falcons made it to the section finals as the Rum River Conference champions during his sophomore season and won the conference title once more during his senior campaign, when he accumulated 52 pancakes and did not allow a sack. For Backowski, it was the product of developing a work ethic and gaining the confidence others had in him. “College athletics was something I wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure if it was attainable,” he said. “There were a lot of coaches and teammates who believed in me before I believed in myself.” This translated into Backowski’s other pursuits as well; along with dabbling in baseball in junior high, he also played varsity basketball and track and field for the Falcons, making it to the Minnesota State High School League State Track and Field Championships in the shot put as a sophomore, junior and senior and qualifying as a discus thrower as a senior. After graduation, Backowski fulfilled his desire to play collegiate football, playing for the University of Colorado Buffaloes and the North Dakota State University Bison. “Foley did a great job of preparing me for what college could look like and would look like,” Backowski said. Backowski’s competitiveness helped him not only in any athletic setting he desired but also in the workforce after completing his education. He has worked for three agriculture companies and is currently employed at Ceres Global Ag in Golden Valley and lives in Mound with his wife, Sara, and infant son, Henry. Through it all, Backwoski has used life lessons taken from his various sport-driven environments and applied it to all aspects of his life. “It’s the culmination of a lot of practice, studying and work,” Backowski said. “It was really understanding if the work is put in, good things will happen.”

No shortage of standouts

FOLEY – As parents, community members and a large section of the Foley High School student body watched, the school district hosted its annual Night of Excellence May 21, presenting its activities participants with recognition for the 2022-23 academic year. The afternoon began with an hourlong reception celebrating Paul Backowski, a 2005 Foley High School graduate and the newest inductee into the Foley Athletic Hall of Fame. Backowski was a three-sport athlete, making waves as a 6-foot, 6-inch offensive lineman for the Falcons football team before playing collegiate football for the University of Colorado and North Dakota State University from 2005-08.

FOLEY – Sandy Anderson, a pillar of St. John’s Area School in Foley, is bidding farewell to the school she has dedicated 45 years of her life to. As a first- and second-grade teacher, Anderson has left an indelible mark on the school and the countless students whose lives she touched. However, as she steps away from Catholic school education, she does so with a mixture of excitement for what lays ahead and melancholy for what she is leaving behind.

Organizers of Foley High School’s 2023 prom did not gamble on weather disrupting grand march. Anticipated rain showers May 13 prompted a Casino Night venue switch to the school’s gymnasium. Prom adviser Mary Keating said the prom committee started working on the event when school started.

FOLEY – St. John’s Area School in Foley is preparing for significant changes at the end of the 2022-23 school year with the retirement of its principal, Christine Friederichs, and paraprofessional, liturgist and office aide Kathy Ross. Friederichs has served as the school’s principal for nine years and has served in Catholic education for 42 years, and Ross has served in her role at SJAS for 15 years.

FOLEY – The Minnesota School Nutrition Association announced that Mackenzie Herbst, a kitchen assistant in Foley Public Schools, has been named Minnesota employee of the year. The award recognizes the contribution of school nutrition employees who exhibit a remarkable commitment to both their school meal program and the students they serve. Herbst’s dedication to her job starts with the way she greets students and school staff in the morning for breakfast. She enjoys visiting with the students and asking about their day. Students know they can come to Herbst with their special diet concerns or questions for the nutrition department.

FOLEY – The Foley Athletic Boosters will again sponsor its annual Night of Excellence this month. The event, which recognizes students in seventh through 12th grades for achievements made in arts, athletics and academics, will take place at 4 p.m. May 21 inside the Foley High School gymnasium in Foley.

FOLEY – The Foley School Board finalized its selection for a superintendent to lead Foley Public Schools May 2. The board selected Trish Perry, an assistant professor of education at St. Cloud State University. Perry, who holds a doctorate degree in education, accepted the position shortly after 10 p.m. May 2. She is expected to start July 1.

FOLEY – Both the Foley High School and Foley Intermediate School recognized hard-working students for their academic efforts during the month of April. At the high school, students recognized were senior William Traut, junior Thomas Holroyd, sophomore Kara Reding and freshman Fletcher Steffenson.

FOLEY – The Foley Intermediate School was the site of a Spring Forward to Disability Transition event April 18, which brought various organizations and speakers to discuss and offer support for the transition for students with disabilities to life after school. Randall Olvenburg attended the event as a representative with The Arc Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that provides information and assistance to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families throughout the state.

FOLEY – When Shawn Wyckoff and Maria Kaneko Millar met, they were college students at The Juilliard School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in New York City, New York. With an acceptance rate of 7%, the globally recognized school was a unique medium for musically diverse soulmates of different countries to meet. Wyckoff, a flutist, is from a suburb outside of Washington, D.C., and Millar, a violinist, is from Alberta, Canada. Growing up, their paths to music were entirely opposite; Wyckoff’s parents punished him by taking his flute away, and Millar’s parents could not get her to practice no matter how much they punished her.

FOLEY – The Foley School Board narrowed the search for a superintendent to five candidates at a special meeting April 19. In doing so, the board is entering into the final stages of selecting the district’s top employee by holding interviews with the candidates Thursday, April 27. In a first-time move from the board, the in-person interviews will be open to the public, though attendees will need to bring photo identification to enter the building during school hours.

FOLEY – Even as it was the weekend, Foley High School student Laura Dohrmann spent most of the day Jan. 29 checking her email. The specific message she was waiting for did not arrive until 6 …

FOLEY – The thrill of competition and a shared goal of success drives athletes to perform at their highest level and grow continually over the course of a campaign. Such was the case for the …

FOLEY – Both the Foley High School and Foley Intermediate School recognized hard-working students for their academic efforts during the month of March. 

FOLEY – Both the Foley High School and Foley Intermediate School recognized hard-working students for their academic efforts during the month of February. At the high school, students recognized were senior Olivia Randall, junior Abigail Carroll, sophomore Mikayla Robertson and freshman Lydia Hunt.


Foley Intermediate School seventh grade and eighth grade students having proficiency scores of 85% or above qualify for the honor roll.  Foley High School students earning a GPA of 3.66 or above …

FOLEY – When it comes to hiring what is effectively the chief operating officer of Foley Public Schools, a superintendent, any diligent chief enterprising officer – in this case, the …

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