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Julie Kuenzel.(Submitted photo)

After almost 25 years of working in the community, Central’s Community Education Director Julie Kuenzel is retiring. She’s enjoyed every year as director, and while it’s sad to go, she’s leaving on a high note. A lot has changed in two decades, but the residents have been there every step of the way from upgrades to growth.

“I’m semi-retiring,”said Kuenzel. “I’ll be finding something to do, but I’m broadening my horizons.”

Central wasn’t Kuenzel’s first foray in Community Education. Before coming to Norwood Young America, she served as an assistant director for Cambridge. The position for Director of Community Education opened in NYA, and she jumped at the opportunity. Since then, she’s stayed, not only building her career but also her life.

“NYA is the right sized community, families are involved here, it really does take a community to raise a child, and I got married here,” said Kuenzel, laughing. “It was hard to leave after that.”

Kuenzel continued, stating that when she applied for the Central position she was specifically looking for a place like NYA. For Community Education, there were plenty of opportunities for growth. More importantly, there was clear interest from residents for that growth and change.

24 years did bring a lot of changes and new experiences for Kuenzel. The big one was technology, of course. Going from dial-up to high speed took place in those decades, along with the need for other types of classes. Those classes weren’t limited to just children either, as more and more adult classes were added in.

And classes weren’t the only things that saw changes and growth.

“When I came here, we had one section of 3-year-old preschool and one section of 4-year-old,” said Kuenzel. “And daycare had just started.”

As of now, there are several classes for the preschoolers, and the daycare program serves over 200 families in the community according to Kuenzel. There are other children’s programs as well, helping train teens for possible jobs and even babysitting classes so they can start to earn.

With COVID came even more, necessary changes. Many classes began to be conducted online in order to still meet with wants of the community with restrictions in mind. Because this option was more convenient for some, and has worked for other communities, online class options will remain. To help facilitate this, a new website was created via the Eleyo system, which has been a great boon for Kuenzel and her team.

“It was hard to learn at first, but it’s much easier than what we had before,” she said. “I wish I had it 10 years ago.”

Kuenzel’s last day is going to be June 30. While planning a sort of semi-retirement, she does intend to enjoy some full time off before going back to part time work. She wants to try something new, perhaps substitute teaching, but also wants to enjoy some time first. Her plan is to spend time with family and travel around Minnesota.

For anyone wanting to try out any of Central’s classes, visit their website at central.k12.mn.us and click the Community Ed tab for class information, registration, and more.

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