Anyone driving past the odd point of land on Quinney Street in Kaukauna saw a rundown park with a malfunctioning water feature. But a group of high school students saw an opportunity for a fun school project that would make a difference for the community.
Kaukauna High School social studies teacher Tim Roehrig challenged his Civic Engagement class to come up with a project that would improve their community during the 2016-17 school year. A student named Adam Smith was among those who suggested the project. Three years later, he returned to see the culmination of the idea.
The class had to raise more than $75,000 for the project. Adam described raising the money as “like the first step toward being an adult.”
The project received a $28,000 grant in 2019 as part of the first awards from the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation to renovate the park and then an additional allocation of $9,412 for a total of $37,412 to ensure it would be completed as the students envisioned.
“They stayed committed to the goal at hand,” Roehrig says.
Semi-circles of large stones will serve as seating for the concerts and plays that will be performed there.
The park is named for Hubert Fassbender, founder of the Kaukauna Cheese Company, which once stood where the park is. An over-sized replica of the company’s cheese spread crock remains at one end of the park.
Here is the final video the students created:
On Oct. 15, students, school officials and other Kaukauna residents turned out to open the revitalized Fassbender Park.
The mayor, their principal and their special teacher were all there. Each spoke standing in front of a statue of Electa Quinney, who opened Wisconsin’s first free school, making her the state’s first public school teacher.
“This is going to be a pride point for generations to come,” says Roehrig.
Who were the Nelsons? Learn more about the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund and find out more about this couple here.