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Hole-in-one

Finding some luck

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Chaska woman is Miss Voluptuous MN 2021

Model. Actor. Welder.

This isn’t a modern remake of the 1980s flick “Flashdance.” This is Ember’s 21st century reality and she couldn’t be prouder of her trajectory.

Ember (born Amber Davis) is the first and current title holder for Miss Voluptuous Minnesota, but her childhood was certainly no children’s pageant circuit. While other aspiring beauty queens were practicing their posture in frilly dresses and makeup, Ember was repairing small engines at an old-hog-farm-turned-junkyard in Howard Lake.

“I was raised in a unique way,” said Ember. “My childhood was a job.”

With her dad unable to work due to injury, Ember and her siblings didn’t get the chance to do many sports or extracurriculars. They did what they needed to do to bring in money and keep the family afloat. “Anything to make a buck,” she said.

There was no adherence to any sort of “traditional” gender roles at the Davis farm. As Ember explained, if someone asked for a babysitter, one of them went. If someone needed something welded, one of them took care of it. “It gave us opportunities,” she offered.

Today, the effervescent 29-year-old Chaska transplant is still never one to turn down an opportunity. “I always want to try anything,” she said. And try things she has — everything from cooking school and bartending classes to nannying and singing to stand-up comedy and modeling.

“I’m very ambitious.”

Ninety percent of who I am today came from my upbringing.”

For the last seven years Ember has worked at Landscape Structures in Delano, helping build unique commercial playground equipment. She started out in concrete and welding and is now supervising operations.

If her day job sounds a bit gritty, she balances that with plenty of makeup and frills in her free time. When she’s not working at Landscape Structures, Ember’s tracking down leads for acting gigs or heading off to modeling jobs. “I’m the one curling my hair in the gas station bathroom on the way to the job,” she laughed.

“It’s not easy, but it’s fun.”

With visions of following actress Melissa McCarthy’s lead into films or plus-size model Erica Lauren into the pages of magazines, Ember has dreams of going to L.A. one day. “I want to earn the right to go there,” she said.

Pageants are ripe for providing such opportunities. Ember entered her first pageant — Miss Maple Lake — at age 16. “I knew I didn’t have the body type, but I wanted the experience,” she explained.

During the pageant, Ember couldn’t help comparing herself to the other contestants and ultimately tearing herself down. “Then, I realized, I’m still here,” she said. “Nothing is stopping me from trying it.”

“I didn’t win anything, but I told myself I wanted to try it again.”

MISS CONGENIALITY

Last year, Ember got her chance at the Miss MN USA pageant. This time, she didn’t doubt herself and she tried her best to lift up her fellow contestants, too. And while she didn’t win the title, she was named Miss Congeniality 2020. “It was an honor to be voted that by the other girls,” she said.

Next spring, Ember will represent Minnesota as she competes in the Miss Voluptuous Internationals pageant in Nashville, Tennessee. According to the pageant website, they “want more than just a plus-sized model in a crown. We are looking for women who genuinely want to make a difference, and have what it takes to be a true role model in their communities, embracing the etiquettes and attributes of a worthy titleholder.”

Ember’s platform is “breaking barriers and supporting beauty at every size.” It’s a message she lives every day and tries to spread every chance she gets.

“You have one body to take you through your entire life,” she said.

You shouldn’t just love your body for the 10% of your life you’re at that ‘one’ size.”

Ember admits it isn’t always easy to be body positive — especially when dealing with internet trolls. She couldn’t help but cry when someone posted a negative comment on a photo of her in her sash and crown riding a motorcycle in a parade. “That one hurt — but it just shows how much more we need to do this.”

“I’m going to make a difference,” she announced defiantly. “And the detractors are gonna have to watch me fly by on my success.”


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Teaser 3

Surreal time

Hawks swimming

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Teaser 4

Purple martins

Don’t nest in wild

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Education
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Mask mandate returning to all Eastern Carver County Schools students

A scuffle broke out during an Eastern Carver County School Board public forum discussing masks.

Following a second altercation, law enforcement intervened and two men were removed from an overflowing board room at the District Education Center.

It was a bumpy start to the scheduled Sept. 27 meeting, hours after the district announcement that, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 29, all students, pre-K through 12th grade, will be required to wear masks.

Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams shared in communication to families that as of Sept. 21, Carver County crossed the 14-day average of 50 cases per 10,000 residents that was the benchmark for increasing masking requirement to all students, regardless of vaccination status.

The district stated they look at “several consecutive days of data before making a shift towards more or less restrictive protocols.” Over the last month, the case-rate has increased from 27 to 53.

The updated policy includes a continued mask mandate for pre-K through sixth grade students until at least the end of October. All students grades 7-12, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear a face covering through Friday, Oct. 15, at which point district leadership will make a decision about whether to extend the requirement through the end of the month.

The 2021-22 school year began with a mask mandate for students in sixth grade and younger.

“I know this decision will be difficult for some in our community. As much as each of us wishes it were so, the pandemic is not over. Until that time, we must do everything we can to keep each other safe and healthy, and keep our students learning in-person. If your child is sick, please keep them home. Watch them for symptoms. We can slow the spread of the virus, bring our local numbers down, and roll back these protocols, which is what we all want for our children,” Sayles-Adams said, in the district communication.

COMMUNITY RESPONSE

The 15 speakers at the public forum portion of the School Board meeting included parents and students, such as Integrated Arts Academy senior Samantha Williamson-Hughes, who felt students’ voice are not being valued.

“I am experiencing it firsthand, and what I’m experiencing is absolutely distasteful. This is my last year in high school and I’d like to spend it free of mandates and restrictions. I’d like a normal senior year. Masking should be optional, and not a requirement. When I can’t see my friends’ smile or hear their jokes, we’re doing some wrong here,” Williamson-Hughes said.

It was Williamson-Hughes who asked for the board room to act like “adults” after the second altercation.

Reese Gorney, an 11th grader at Chaska High School with two younger siblings, said because of her anxiety and low blood pressure, in which she has had fainting spells in the past, she believes “everybody should have a right to choose for themselves.” Gorney thanked the school board for a “great education” over the years.

Todd Parmenter, who has had at least one student in the district for the last 15 years, said the decision to add a mask mandate for older children will result in a change of school for his middle school son.

Shannon Schleicher, a mother of two boys at Chanhassen High School, said the updated mask policy was “disappointing.” She said of the roughly 1,600 students in the school, there has only been eight confirmed cases.

“The definition of discrimination according to Merriam-Webster is the act of unfairly treating someone or a group of people differently than other groups of people. ... According to the Eastern Carver County Schools website, Eastern Carver County Schools are committed to an environment where everyone, it says everyone, feels welcome, safe and included,” Schleicher said.

“Under the district’s safe learning plan, quarantining must take place because of the following: testing positive, or a household member tests positive; if you’re identified as a close contact, please, you must provide a negative test after seven days, or if you have no symptoms you can wear a mask for those 10 days. If you’re fully vaccinated, or have had COVID in the last 90 days, then you don’t have to quarantine. So this is conditioning people, including the kids in your district, to believe the vaxxed people are the good guys. Kids are calling out other kids for not being vaxxed. It’s happening in the schools. Parents are talking about it,” she added.

Parent Danielle Engebretson shared a similar story. Her daughter, because she is not vaccinated and had COVID in April, not within the 90-day timeframe, cannot return to school until after a 10-day quarantine after having close contact with a positive case.

“I am so disappointed in the segregation. This is no different than segregating Black and white people. This is exactly Jim Crow laws,” said Engebretson. “We don’t trust you. We want to be able to trust you. Take the masks off our kids and stop segregating our children. You’re violating (my daughter’s) right to an education in a public school, Engebretson said.

“This isn’t community, it’s selfish,” said Dontá Hughes, a 2020 Eastern Carver County School board candidate, referring to the overall tone of the public forum.

“When we constantly say ‘our kids, our kids’ ... we should be trying to get through it together, but we’re not,” Hughes said. “We’re letting what we think, what we feel, drive what we want everyone else to do. And that’s not right.”

Members of the school board, still visibly shaken an hour after the open forum, reiterated that this monthly meeting is not the only way opinions are expressed from the community.

Board member Angela Erickson, in her board report, shared she had multiple conversations out in the community, over the masking policy.

Sean Olsen, like Erickson, a first-year board member, said he has received many emails as well, some from people who felt unsafe to attend the meeting in person.

“It’s been a rough year-and-a-half as a board member in COVID. Part of the reason it’s rough is because we haven’t been able to get into the schools and remind ourselves why we’re here. We’re here because of the kids and because of you great tachers and because of great people like you,” said Vice Chair Lisa Anderson to Clover Ridge Elementary Principal Nate Slinde, who in addition to helping break up the altercation, presented the “good news” happening at the school to the board.


Education
top story
Mask mandate returning to all Eastern Carver County Schools students

A scuffle broke out during an Eastern Carver County School Board public forum discussing masks.

Following a second altercation, a Chaska Police officer intervened and escorted a man from an overflowing board room at the District Education Center.

It was a bumpy start to the scheduled Sept. 27 meeting, hours after the district announcement that, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 29, all students, pre-K through 12th grade, will be required to wear masks.

Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams shared in communication to families that as of Sept. 21, Carver County crossed the 14-day average of 50 cases per 10,000 residents that was the benchmark for increasing masking requirement to all students, regardless of vaccination status.

The district stated they look at “several consecutive days of data before making a shift towards more or less restrictive protocols.” Over the last month, the case-rate has increased from 27 to 53.

The updated policy includes a continued mask mandate for pre-K through sixth grade students until at least the end of October. All students grades 7-12, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear a face covering through Friday, Oct. 15, at which point district leadership will make a decision about whether to extend the requirement through the end of the month.

The 2021-22 school year began with a mask mandate for students in sixth grade and younger.

“I know this decision will be difficult for some in our community. As much as each of us wishes it were so, the pandemic is not over. Until that time, we must do everything we can to keep each other safe and healthy, and keep our students learning in-person. If your child is sick, please keep them home. Watch them for symptoms. We can slow the spread of the virus, bring our local numbers down, and roll back these protocols, which is what we all want for our children,” Sayles-Adams said, in the district communication.

COMMUNITY RESPONSE

The 15 speakers at the public forum portion of the School Board meeting included parents and students, such as Integrated Arts Academy senior Samantha Williamson-Hughes, who felt students’ voice are not being valued.

“I am experiencing it firsthand, and what I’m experiencing is absolutely distasteful. This is my last year in high school and I’d like to spend it free of mandates and restrictions. I’d like a normal senior year. Masking should be optional, and not a requirement. When I can’t see my friends’ smile or hear their jokes, we’re doing some wrong here,” Williamson-Hughes said.

It was Williamson-Hughes who asked for the board room to act like “adults” after the second altercation.

Reese Gorney, an 11th grader at Chaska High School with two younger siblings, said because of her anxiety and low blood pressure, in which she has had fainting spells in the past, she believes “everybody should have a right to choose for themselves.” Gorney thanked the school board for a “great education” over the years.

Todd Parmenter, who has had at least one student in the district for the last 15 years, said the decision to add a mask mandate for older children will result in a change of school for his middle school son.

Shannon Schleicher, a mother of two boys at Chanhassen High School, said the updated mask policy was “disappointing.” She said of the roughly 1,600 students in the school, there has only been eight confirmed cases.

“The definition of discrimination according to Merriam-Webster is the act of unfairly treating someone or a group of people differently than other groups of people. ... According to the Eastern Carver County Schools website, Eastern Carver County Schools are committed to an environment where everyone, it says everyone, feels welcome, safe and included,” Schleicher said.

“Under the district’s safe learning plan, quarantining must take place because of the following: testing positive, or a household member tests positive; if you’re identified as a close contact, please, you must provide a negative test after seven days, or if you have no symptoms you can wear a mask for those 10 days. If you’re fully vaccinated, or have had COVID in the last 90 days, then you don’t have to quarantine. So this is conditioning people, including the kids in your district, to believe the vaxxed people are the good guys. Kids are calling out other kids for not being vaxxed. It’s happening in the schools. Parents are talking about it,” she added.

Parent Danielle Engebretson shared a similar story. Her daughter, because she is not vaccinated and had COVID in April, not within the 90-day timeframe, cannot return to school until after a 10-day quarantine after having close contact with a positive case.

“I am so disappointed in the segregation. This is no different that segregating Black and white people. This is exactly Jim Crow laws,” said Engebretson. “We don’t trust you. We want to be able to trust you. Take the masks off our kids and stop segregating our children. You’re violating (my daughter’s) right to an education in a public school, Engebretson said.

“This isn’t community, it’s selfish,” said Dontá Hughes, a 2020 Eastern Carver County School board candidate, referring to the overall tone of the public forum.

“When we constantly say ‘our kids, our kids’ ... we should be trying to get through it together, but we’re not,” Hughes said. “We’re letting what we think, what we feel, drive what we want everyone else to do. And that’s not right.”

Members of the school board, still visibly shaken an hour after the open forum, reiterated that this monthly meeting is not the only way opinions are expressed from the community.

Board member Angela Erickson, in her board report, shared she had multiple conversations out in the community, over the masking policy.

Sean Olsen, like Erickson, a first-year board member, said he has received many emails as well, some from people who felt unsafe to attend the meeting in person.

“It’s been a rough year-and-a-half as a board member in COVID. Part of the reason it’s rough is because we haven’t been able to get into the schools and remind ourselves why we’re here. We’re here because of the kids and because of you great teachers and because of great people like you,” said Vice Chair Lisa Anderson to Clover Ridge Elementary Principal Nate Slinde, who in addition to helping break up the altercation, presented the “good news” happening at the school to the board.


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Teaser 1

San Francisco landmark

Now on National Register

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