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La Crosse Tribune Extra Effort Award

Extra Effort: Westby's Genevieve Haugen perseveres, grows following father's death

From the COLLECTION: Meet 2021-22 Extra Effort students, so far series
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La Crosse Tribune Extra Effort Award: Genevieve Haugen

Westby Area High School senior Genevieve Haugen stays busy with numerous school and community activities. She plans on studying health/exercise science.

Genevieve Haugen has learned how to persevere. At the age of 14 her father, Greg, suffered a massive heart attack and died on Feb. 6, 2018.

“I was numb,” said Haugen, who is a senior Westby Area High School.

She can recall every detail of that day – from getting a phone call from her oldest sister Martha telling her to get off the bus at the Coon Valley Kwik Trip where a family friend would meet her, to when she went to their home in Chaseburg to feed the dog at 5:30 p.m. and received the news of her father’s death.

When Haugen got home, her mother was there along with the family’s pastor. “Our pastor had the news about the heart attack. I thought it was a sick joke… I couldn’t imagine it… he was my best friend.”

Haugen’s perseverance and leadership have earned her the La Crosse Tribune Extra Effort Award nomination.

Jennie Marx, the WAHS Family & Consumer Sciences instructor and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America adviser, said that after her father’s death Haugen could have “put her head in the sand” and retreated from the world but she didn’t.

“She’s been a rock star,” Marx said. “She rose above it all and became a leader. She rose to the challenge.”

Marx said there was a time when Haugen was quite shy, but she broke out of her shell and is comfortable speaking in front of people in the community and in the classroom.

“She can calm a class down, saying, ‘Behave; we have a job to do.’ People look to her for leadership, her hard work and her dedication,” Marx said.

Over the past four years, Haugen said she has worked through depression, grief, anxiety, friendships, school balance, being a supportive family member and the many other teenage things one goes through.

“It took a really long time (to work through everything),” she said. “Freshman year was the hardest. I was experiencing not fitting in and going through grief.”

Haugen said looking back, “it takes a village to raise a kid, especially when you lose a loved one.” She said the varsity football team was like family when she became team manager. “Once I got involved in school and the community (things got better). The love and support has been outstanding.”

Haugen said many people have inspired her during her high school years; however, her top three are her mother Marie, her younger sister Brigitta and Marx.

“I see how strong (my mom is),” she said. “She’s a single mom, widowed, who cared for three kids in high school; it’s amazing.”

“I see my little sister and see how she’s grown,” Haugen added. “Mrs. Marx is like a second mom. At school she has helped me (so much)… She was one of my dad’s best friends.”

Marx has known Haugen since before she was in the seventh grade because Haugen’s oldest sister was a member of FCCLA and their father was an active volunteer supporting the FCCLA as a chaperone and working with the students. “He was a dependable extra person,” Marx said.

Marx said Haugen is passionate about Westby and wants the students to have success. An example of this was before winter break when there was a Holiday Week filled with activities and challenges for students and staff. Marx said one of the main organizers couldn’t be at school for the last day of activities due to an unforeseen circumstance, so Haugen stepped in and filled that role.

“She didn’t want recognition,” Marx said. “It was neat to see a high school student step up and not want glory and honor.” She said Haugen is “a wonderful person to work with.”

Haugen plans on attending either Winona State University or the University of Minnesota-Mankato for a bachelor’s degree in health/exercise science. After that, she would like to pursue a master’s degree in athletic training, and then treat high school age athletes and potentially work with college level athletes.

Haugen said gym classes and AP psychology have helped her prepare for her future career, along with becoming more involved with school activities.

“My sophomore year was the breaking point where I got out of the grief and depression,” she said. “I got more involved in school… I started as the varsity football manager and moved to boys basketball and softball. It was all so different and I enjoyed seeing the athletes grow.”

An FCCLA project Haugen did during her junior year also helped her decide on pursuing a health/exercise science degree. She put together a sports nutrition project for basketball player Rhett Stenslien, where she set up a nutrition plan for him and recorded his progress.

In addition to managing the football, boys basketball and softball teams and being a member of FCCLA, she is a member of FFA and the Service Club. She’s a state FCCLA officer and has been a chapter officer in FFA. She was on the Miss Wild West Royalty Court, and she is now serving the community as the Westby Syttende Mai Princess. She also attends most sporting events as a member of the pep band.

Haugen said she has seen how she’s grown during her high school years. “I lost a part of myself that day (when my father died). I don’t know if I’ll get that back. I was a daddy’s girl. In my senior year now I look back and the change has been amazing.”

Angela Cina can be reached at angie.cina@lee.net.

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Vernon County Times editor

Angie Cina is editor of the Vernon County Times. Contact her at 608-637-5616.

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