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Engnes wins $20,000 D.A.R.E. scholarship

Ellsworth native Maggie Engnes received her $20,000 D.A.R.E. America National scholarship on July 13 while in Dallas, Texas. Sgt. Chad Koranda (left) and Lt. Steve Albarado of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department were there to support Engnes. Photo courtesy of Sgt. Chad Koranda1 / 2
Maggie Engnes (center) received her scholarship from the United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Dallas, Texas in July. Engnes said she wasn't able to speak to him for a long duration, but thought the experience was "cool." Photo courtesy of Maggie Engnes2 / 2

Maggie Engnes was on her way to softball practice when she got a call from someone in California, a number she didn't recognize.

"I was getting a phone call from California and I was like 'What the heck,'" Engnes said.

It turned out, it was D.A.R.E. America, an organization with which Engnes has been involved since her sophomore year of high school as a D.A.R.E. Role Model and later the Wisconsin D.A.R.E. representative.

The call was about a scholarship for which Engnes had applied. A $20,000 scholarship she won.

Engnes said she was shocked when she heard the news, especially after hearing other state representative sharing their stories in Hawaii just a month prior.

"Kids were talking about what they said and what they did and I thought, 'Oh god, I've got nothing,'" Engnes said.

Engnes, a recent Ellsworth High School graduate, said she was chosen for the growth she has displayed; Engnes called herself shy before, but now describes herself as "bubbly."

Lt. Steve Albarado of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department has spent a lot of time with Engnes over the years. Albarado was the D.A.R.E. Officer for Pierce County from 2007-2014, but drove Engnes to D.A.R.E. state board meetings in Stevens Point and Sturgeon Bay.

Those long trips showed Albarado what kind of person Engnes is.

"She was really, really focused in," Albarado said. "What separated Maggie...she had some really big ideas and she worked really, really hard to make these ideas come to fruition."

Albarado said Engnes is the third D.A.R.E. state representative from Wisconsin who's won the $20,00 national scholarship, making Wisconsin the most awarded state in the country for that scholarship.

"Pierce County is strong, not just statewide, but nationally," Albarado said. "D.A.R.E. America looks to us to pilot programs. You think about 72 counties...time after time Pierce County gets selected. It's not because there isn't good kids elsewhere but we're so strong with our D.A.R.E. program."

Engnes said working with officers in Pierce County has been "a privilege" and that she got to see police officers for how they really are.

"It's fun just working with cops. They love kids and we only see the bad side of them, but really they're amazing and they're fun people," Engnes said.

Engnes enjoyed speaking at her two of her brothers' D.A.R.E. graduation ceremonies when they were both in fifth grade.

"It was the greatest thing," Engnes said.

Along with that, her brothers AJ and Connor got the chance to see the D.A.R.E. program from a different perspective than most of their classmates. Engnes said they were able to see it as a "beneficial" opportunity, rather than a bad or unpopular option.

"When we got back from Texas my brother Connor said, 'I wanna do that,'" Engnes said.

She received her scholarship on July 13 in Dallas, Texas where she got to meet United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Engnes said they weren't able to really talk with Sessions, but the experience was still "cool."

Overall, Engnes said she isn't ready to give up her place as the state representative, but it won't necessarily end for her. Engnes still plans on being a resource for the new state representative, Spring Valley's Maddie Matthys.

Engnes will still be involved with D.A.R.E. America and is currently working on a project; she doesn't think it'll ever end for her.

"The D.A.R.E. program is growing," Engnes said. "And I hope I can help make a difference in our community and help it grow here and watch it flourish."

Things were difficult for Engnes throughout high school; she said she was "bullied" and "picked on" for being involved with D.A.R.E. While she may not have been popular in high school, Engnes was able to make friendships that will last a lifetime through the program.

"High school was hard with this because that's when you just want to fit in," Engnes said. "I've lost friends but I've made friends too. The right friends."

Engnes is moving on to Mankato State to study Elementary Education. She currently works at a daycare and would love to work with young children.

And of course, she has plans to implement a D.A.R.E. program wherever she ends up teaching.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal in December 2016 covering government, school board, and writing features about the community. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism.