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Bucks for Books: Frazee woman works to raise reading awareness

Sally, Dick and Jane. They were fun to grow up with and made a lasting impact on Katie Dretsch.

Now she reads more along the lines of David Shannon's "A Bad Case of the Stripes," "No, David" and "David Goes to School," still enjoying youth literature.

That passion for books and reading, regardless of age, is what prompted Dretsch to adopt "Readers are Leaders" as her platform for her upcoming Miss Minnesota competition. But it's not just about the pageant.

Dretsch, who is double majoring in early education and elementary education, uses her title as Miss Frazee and the upcoming Miss Minnesota event as vehicles to promote literacy awareness.

Bucks for Books

Her major project to promote her platform and reading is Bucks for Books, a fund-raiser she started in Frazee. She got the idea from a professor at college, who talked about how a school held a fund-raiser to pay for a librarian after her position got cut due to budget issues. Dretsch got the idea she could do a fund-raising effort on behalf of books.

"Any money that we raise, no matter little or big, is important. I'm just really excited to get new books for the school."

Events will be held in the school to raise money for the cause, as well as community support. Drop-off points for the community to donate funds are United Community Bank, Yak Shack Beauty Salon and the high school office.

Once the money is raised, it will be split between the high school and elementary school, and Dretsch is leaving it to the librarian to order the new books.

"They know much better than I do what books they need to be purchasing," she said, because of expressed interest from the students.

When Dretsch realized Bucks for Books would be something she'd want to do for the school, she recruited two helpers -- Junior Miss Frazee Stacey Quittschreiber and Miss Minnesota Outstanding Teen candidate Alyssa Mayfield.

Dretsch explained that the three girls got to know each other this summer from being in parades together. Since Mayfield was preparing for the Miss Minnesota Outstanding Teen competition, she'd be working with her platform on recycling as well.

To bring recycling into the picture, all the collection containers are recycled containers like mayonnaise and apple cider jugs from Central Market and Speak Easy.

"As far as Stacey, I just asked her to be involved. She represents the Frazee school because she's Junior Miss Frazee. Their focus is kind of to be a representative for the school, and represent the younger generation of the community, but also the high school."

The collection containers will be in classrooms and throughout the community until the end of the third quarter, March 20.

Doing her student teaching in Mandan, N.D., Dretsch said it's been hard to work on her platform in Frazee as much as she would have liked.

Miss Minnesota

The Miss Minnesota competition is Father's Day weekend, the second weekend in June.

"My dad gets to spend his Father's Day watching me compete in Miss Minnesota," she said with a laugh. "He pretends like he's not (excited), but deep down I know he's excited. They're (her parents Jack and Kathy Dretsch) really supportive, which is wonderful."

While she's excited to attend the Miss Minnesota competition, Dretsch is more excited to represent Frazee and promote her literacy platform.

"I was stunned to win Miss Frazee, so I don't really have high hopes for Miss Minnesota.

"For me, it's not about getting on stage and walking around in a swimsuit or evening gown. It's really about who I am as an individual and how important my platform is to not only our community, but to Minnesota and worldwide."

The most exciting part of the competition for her, she said, is to share with the judges, other contestants and whoever she meets along the way how important literacy is. Throughout the week, the contestants will go to different events, and at each place, they will discuss their platform.

"We get a huge opportunity to really represent our community. We get to put ourselves on the frontline and say 'hey, this is what we're here to do and this is why we want to do it.'"

The interview and on-stage question portions of the pageant are also based on the contestant's platform, so Dretsch will be able to she her passion for reading with everyone in attendance as well.

Unfortunate distance

Because she lives so far away, Dretsch said it's harder to do more work with her platform. This spring though, March-July especially, she's going to make a push for it.

"With me, I am four hours away and it's hard to stay active. But it's wonderful to have a community that's so supportive. Even with Alyssa and Stacey, there's no way I could do this without them and without the school district being very, very supportive."

The first week of March is dedicated to Read Across America, the celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday, and Dretsch said she plans to take a week off of work and come to Frazee to promote literacy.

She'll come to Frazee and read to elementary students. She said she hoped to get high schoolers to help with mentoring and reading to the younger students.

To raise money for the Bucks for Books program, Dretsch plans to have a penny war at the high school during her week there as well.

"That'll be our biggest bang to try and get money because it'll be the last week (of the collection)."

Dretsch said that without the community and the school staff, she wouldn't be able to do the Bucks for Books program.

"If I didn't have the support from the staff, there's no way I could do this," she added. "That's wonderful from afar because it helps me know this is going to be successful. If it weren't for the support of my community, there's no way I would be successful."