Students put to pen the community’s Bears that shine

White Bear students Bella Bussiere, Grace Conroy, Brynn Gamradt, David Harman, Gianluca Rio and Aida Thiam are the winners of this year’s Manitou Days Student Writing Contest on “Bears that Shine.”

Six area students were chosen as winners of this year’s Manitou Days Student Writing Contest. 

This year’s theme was “Bears that Shine” celebrating those who inspire students in the community.

The winners are not ranked. Winners were each given $50 from the White Bear Lake Rotary Club. They were thrown a pizza and pool party at the White Bear Lake Country Inn and were invited to walk in the Manitou Days Grande Parade.

Congratulations to: Otter Lake Elementary fourth grader Bella Bussiere; Central Middle School sixth grader Grace Conroy; Vadnais Heights Elementary fourth grader Brynn Gamradt; Matoska International Elementary first grader David Harman; Lakeaires Elementary first grader Gianluca Rio; and Central Middle School sixth grader Aida Thiam. 

Sara Marie Moore

Following is the students’ writing:



By Bella Bussiere

We learn the lessons that they teach

They teach us history, math and speech

The teachers love us one and all

They will catch us if we fall

The school district of White Bear

Makes a difference that is rare

They grow our body and our mind

Our teachers are caring and also kind

You teach us from September to spring

Thank you teachers for everything!

It’s great to know how much they care

I’m proud to say I’m from White Bear

They make a difference everyday

They’re Bears that Shine, wouldn’t you say?


Bear that shines: 

teacher and historian

By Grace Conroy

When I think of Bears that Shine, I think of Rheanna O’Brien. Not only is she the board president of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society, she also teaches middle school social studies at Frassati Catholic Academy in White Bear Lake. Rheanna was my fifth-grade social studies teacher and I had a blast learning about U.S. history and immigration. During class, we did fun and interactive activities instead of worksheets and lectures. One of my personal favorites was when we did an “Antiques Roadshow” and everyone brought in a family artifact. From this activity, I learned more about my family history and got to hear the stories of my classmates’ families.

In addition to teaching, Rheanna O’Brien is the board president of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She has encouraged me to volunteer during multiple Historical Society events, and it was so much fun! I met new people in my community and learned so much about the history of White Bear. Last year Rheanna received a grant to travel to Washington D.C. and study Cass Gilbert’s connection to the White Bear Township Town Hall. She searched through sketches and other primary sources in hopes to design a curriculum to teach kids about the amazing history of White Bear Lake. Between the positive impact she makes on her students and saving history for White Bear Lake, Rheanna O’Brien is a Bear that shines. 




My sister Bear that shines

By Brynn Gamradt

My sister Meghan Gamradt is a Bear that shines. Meghan and her friend started a nonprofit called Creations4acause. They made nail art, paintings on canvases, coasters, and printed shirts all related to Minnesota. They sold their products at Heritage Days in Vadnais Heights. The money they raised went to a organization in our community called Solid Ground. Solid Ground is a place for people to stay for about two years until they are able to find a home. 

Another thing Meghan has done with some friends is collected donations of food and personal hygiene products. They handed these items out to people on the street in St. Paul. 

Meghan and her friend have also put together a spaghetti dinner. The money they raised from the dinner was donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. That is why in my opinion Meghan is a Bear that shines. I think my sister is pretty awesome! 


Police officers shine

By David Harman

Have you ever wondered who the people are with the blue clothes and a shiny silver star? Well your question is about to be answered! These people are called police officers! Police officers help and protect us in many different ways. Here are some of them. First, they protect us from robbers and criminals. Second, whenever I see a police officer at a car accident I know it will be okay! Third, my grandpa is allergic to wasps. Once he was stung because of the allergic reaction. He was unconscious. My neighbors called 911. It was ok!

These are the reasons that I think police officers are awesome community helpers!


Shining trash pickers

By Gianluca Rio

My name is Gianluca and I am writing to tell you about a group of friends that shine and make a difference in our community. They call themselves the  ̈ Trash Pickers ̈ and this is what they do. They wear white t-shirts with name  ̈Trash Pickers ̈ on it. They go around my neighborhood and Spruce Park picking up trash. This is good for our environment and helps keep our earth clean. The  ̈Trash Pickers ̈ are helping our community stay clean. Especially at Spruce Park where a lot of kids play. This keeps kids safe from broken glass bottles or other sharp objects. Hopefully others will make up a trash picking group in their neighborhood and we can all be Bears that shine. 


Student volunteers 

create a shinier world

By Aida Thiam

As I take a stroll through the park, with leaves rustling in the wind and the hollers of glee from the children playing on the playground, I see how our world has become so much different from long ago. A lot less homeless people, and no more starving people by the curb. I have been in the White Bear Lake school district for seven years now and I would not go anywhere else. Us Bears are working towards a common goal, to make the world a better place. I would like to take this time to recognize and honor all the marvelous work our future leaders have accomplished to create a change in our community.

Let’s start with Otter Lake. Third, fourth and fifth graders at this school are doing extraordinary things such as making packaged food for the organization Feed My Starving Children, making holiday cards for the elderly, and even going as far as making donations and fundraisers to provide developing countries in need the access to clean water.

At Willow Lane, these prodigious children are doing wonders being chefs, servers, and hosts at the restaurant, Donatelli’s. This is where they heard about the eye-opening, tragic death of a 7-year-old from cancer. Since then, they have donated a portion of their tips to a fundraiser in his name organized by the foundation HopeKids, his favorite one. 

Another school where kids are doing such inspiring things is South Campus. It is here that their student council gathered 14,000 lbs. of food and $8,000 for their local food shelf!

Oneka Elementary’s BOSS (Bears Official Service Superheroes) really are being super. The fourth graders here are making blankets for homeless people and even sent packages for hurricane relief with basic necessities. However, students are not the only ones contributing to this work. Oneka staff members have partnered with Habitat for Humanity to construct homes for the homeless!

As we reach the end of all the fascinating schools in our district, we can really see how they have changed the world one step at a time. And as Auggie Pullman once said, “Everybody deserves a standing ovation at least once in their lives,” and I think these schools really do. Why you might ask? Well, because these Bears really do shine.

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