Lydia Pankratz, a first-year nursing student at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, is the recipient of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Scholarship sponsored by Northwestern Mutual Foundation.

In addition to scholarships, the Foundation has contributed more than $25 million toward finding cures and supporting patients and their families. Additionally, the money has funded more than 250,000 hours of research.

Pankratz was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012, when she was 11 years old; she will be declared cancer-free in January 2020.

It was her cancer diagnosis that impacted her future career path. Prior to her illness, she had "never considered nursing." With the care she received from nurses, her admiration of the profession grew. She "loved the details" involved in their work and hopes to one day provide patients with the same care and dedication she received when she was sick.

Receiving the scholarship made attending the University of Northwestern possible. Pankratz’s parents are both alumni of the school and she dreamed of attending the private college. Receiving the financial support "made going easier" and she is "very grateful." Pankratz said searching for scholarships during her senior year at Century High School was her "full-time job." "I put it up into God’s hands and I am so blessed," she said.

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Kindness matters

St. Pius X school in Rochester recently held a Viktor’s Quest to Stop Bullying assembly. Viktor’s Quest is an educational anti-bullying program presented by the Minnesota Vikings. Country Financial stepped in and presented the Defender of Kindness award to both a teacher and student at St. Pius for their positive contributions to the school community.

Fourth-grader George Restovickreceived the student honor at the assembly. Assistant Principal Amy Heimersaid of George, "(He was) chosen as the student recipient because of how respectful and kind he is, to not only his classmates but all students and staff at school. He is always positive and kind with others and is usually willing to help resolve conflicts. He is a wonderful role model."

Kindergarten teacher Emily Heydonwas the teacher recipient at the assembly. Heydon was raised in Rochester, attending Rochester Catholic schools and graduating from Lourdes. She remembers being a playground "conflict manager" in elementary school. Her job was to provide guidance to younger students and help them resolve conflicts while on the playground. Those early skills have been honed over the years and today she is teaching her kindergarten students "to stand up, take action, open up, and protect."

"These children are still so young and need an opportunity to learn how they can express themselves in an appropriate way," Heydon said. By discussing emotions and appropriate reactions, her students are learning lifelong social skills.


Last month, Mayo Clinic medical student Allisa J. Songand her team competed in the 2019 Collegiate Inventors Competition in Alexandria, Va.

Their invention, the Nanodropper, which aims to reduce eye drop medication waste, earned them the Graduate Runner-Up award.