Welcome back to Volga
By Kim Hurley
When Nick and Melissa (Horns) Fettkether got married in 1992 and moved out of Clayton County, they probably would have never fathomed returning to the Volga area to raise their family. This is true for several families who have started out their early years in larger metropolises, only to find themselves drawn back to Volga.
For Nick and Melissa, the first six years of their married life began in Cedar Rapids where they both worked at APAC Teleservices. While Nick was a computer network engineer, Melissa was a human resources and information systems specialist. They spent the next seven-and-a-half years in Walford, Iowa, where they remained in the same professions.
In the fall of 2006, Nick and Melissa moved their four children to the family farm in rural Volga where Nick was raised. “It’s home,” Melissa states simply alluding to the 40 acres, which included the buildings, that they bought from Nick’s parents, Roger and Martha Fettkether. “They love the woods,” Melissa said, smiling at how their place affords their kids plenty of space to enjoy nature and their own great outdoors of northeast Iowa. They also enjoy raising a herd of about 20 beef cattle, which they have on halves with Nick’s dad.
However, the main impetus for their return to rural living, as Melissa explains, was the opportunity “for our kids to be involved in a small school district and experience the same type of living that both of us had growing up.” She emphasizes that small schools have been great at giving kids a lot of opportunities to be involved with more activities.
The Fettkether kids include Jacqueline, who graduated from Valley in 2013 and took college classes this past year, Alex is finishing his junior year at North Fayette-Valley (NFV) High School, Ben is finishing eighth grade at NFV Middle School, and Rebecca is finishing sixth grade at Valley Elementary. Melissa explains that the Valley and the North Fayette schools started whole-grade sharing this year, so high school students from both districts attend the North Fayette facility in West Union, middle school students from both districts attend the Valley facility near Elgin, and each district has their own elementary schools.
Both Nick and Melissa have made indelible marks on the communities in which they live and work. In 2000, along with another couple, they established EnCompass Iowa in Cedar Rapids, which provides computer networking and services. As a computer network engineer, Nick travels two to three days per week to client sites. According to Melissa, he tries to get to the office in Cedar Rapids once a week, with the remaining time spent at his home office.
Melissa, the business manager at Valley Community School (VCS) since November 2006, was recognized last month with the Iowa Association of Business Officials (ASBO) Professional Award. Bestowed on only two individuals each year, the award is not only in recognition of their having performed extraordinary deeds in their field and their commitment to professional development, but also their demonstrated excellence in service and leadership in their profession, school district, and community.
During her seven-year tenure, Melissa has been not only the business manager but also the facilities and grounds manager at VCS. Her leadership in the Iowa ASBO has included mentoring new school business officials and serving on the Professional Growth Committee. She has presented at ASBO conferences both at the state and national/international level. Also at the international level, Melissa has been a member of the Auditing and Budgeting Committee, as well as the recipient of the Bridges to the Future Award.
Melissa expresses her fulfillment in the ASBO, “I am hoping to continue to be involved in the association, to continue learning, to advocate for small districts, and to help others understand what a great and rewarding profession I’m a member of.”
She is just as involved in the community. As a member of Sacred Heart Church in Volga, Melissa is a lector, religious education instructor and parish council member. Until this past January, she was a leader for the Pleasant Valley Sharp Shooters Club for seven years.
Melissa’s community service continues as the treasurer for the Valley Community Coalition (VCC). She also chaperones a couple of times per year at the VCC Youth Center, a place created by the coalition where youth can spend their weekend evenings as an alternative to less desirable options.
As a recipient of the Iowa ASBO Award, Melissa was honored with a plaque for her office; a $1000 scholarship for a graduating senior from her school district; an invitation to the next Iowa ASBO Conference; and reimbursement in registration, lodging, and airfare up to $1500 to attend the International ASBO Conference.
“This award was a great reinforcement that striving to do my best every day is paying off. I truly love what I do,” Melissa expresses her appreciation for the award, “It was nice to be recognized not only for myself, but as a representative of a rural, small school. Even though we are remote and small, which means less funding, great things happen in our district every day. Everyone learns to adapt and step up to do whatever is necessary to give the kids the education they deserve.”
The community has definitely benefitted since Nick and Melissa Fettkether have returned with their family to live in rural Volga! Welcome back, Fettkethers!