children_getting_to_school.jpgThe students, faculty, and staff of Mayville State University have embarked on a project that will help fulfill the goals and dreams of Ann Nicole Nelson, the Stanley, N.D. native who perished in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City. The Mayville State group is working to raise funds to purchase backpacks for children in Nepal who have nothing in which to carry their school supplies as they climb the mountains on their way to and from school. The goal is to purchase backpacks for 200 children. Each backpack will cost $20, for a total of $4,000.

Mayville State has long been known for the personal service that is provided, not only on campus, but also in the community, across the country, and around the world. This personal service will shine, as through the backpack project, the group personifies what made Ann so special … loving people deeply, embracing diversity, and learning about and traveling the world. The members of the Mayville State family have a warm place in their hearts for school children, as the university’s original mission of educating school teachers is still going strong today.

Who was Ann Nicole Nelson?

Ann_Nicole_Nelson.jpgAnn Nicole Nelson was known as a positive, purposeful, and adventuresome person. She was a bond broker for the Cantor Fitzgerald Company. Sadly, at 30 years old, Ann perished in the terrorist attack on World Trade Towers, where her office was located. This happened just four days after she started working there.

When her computer was returned to her parents after her death, a precious discovery was made. Among the documents of Ann’s computer was a file entitled “Top 100.” The list was a compilation of goals and dreams Ann wanted to accomplish and experience in her lifetime. The list included being healthier, building a house in North Dakota, and going helicopter skiing with her dad. The list was incomplete with only 37 items. The list and story were published in The New York Times and Cosmopolitan magazine.

Annie_House_Bottineau_Winter_Park.jpgA house in North Dakota

Seeing the story inspired Jeff Parness, founder of New York Says Thank You (NYSTY), to contact the Nelson family to explore the possibility of a project. Out of those discussions grew a plan to build a year-around adaptive recreation facility for wounded veterans and people with disabilities. Annie’s House, a collaborative effort by NYSTY, Bottineau (N.D.) Winter Park, and friends and family from across the country, brought Ann’s dream to build a home in North Dakota to life.

#6. Nepal

Item #6 on Ann’s list was “Nepal.” On the anniversary of 9/11 in 2015, volunteers with NYSTY travelled to Nepal to help rebuild schools destroyed in a deadly earthquake and lift the spirits of children in Katmandu as part of their emotional recovery from the tragedy. Stars of HOPE were painted and funds were raised. An early childhood development center was built in Ann’s memory. It is located in Singulpuchek, Nepal, one of the areas hit hardest in the earthquake.

Nepal_early_childhood_development_center.jpgWhat does all this have to do with the backpack project?

Deepa Tamang, a teacher at the Alchemist Academy in Katmandu, was so moved by this international gesture to “pay it forward” on the 9/11 anniversary, and so inspired by Ann’s story, that she decided to “pay it forward” as well. Deepa has been helping the remote village in the Sinulpuchek region by bringing clothes and books for the young children. It is her way to keep this chain of love and kindness going.

Deepa has asked for 200 weather-proof backpacks that she can give to the children to use to carry their books to and from school. The children have to climb very steep hills to get to school and backpacks could make their lives easier and make a very big statement – that we care.

The folks at Mayville State learned of this opportunity to help school children in Nepal through Dr. Mary Stammen, director of the GST Special Education Unit located in Portland, N.D. Dr. Stammen and Ann were friends, and Dr. Stammen is very familiar with the acts of kindness that are being performed in memory of her friend Ann.

Area schools have been invited to help out.

The Mayville Area Teacher Center staff have invited area schools to get involved with the fund-raising effort. As a challenge, Mayville State faculty and students are offering a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) party for the class that raises the most money. For more information, contact Donalee Strand at the Teacher Center, or 701-788-4718.

Would you like to help?

The total cost of the 200 backpacks is $4,000. If you’d like to make a contribution to the project, please go to Time is of the essence. It is important that this fund-raising project be wrapped up by Friday, May 13, 2016.

For more information about the project and to learn more about Ann Nicole
Nelson (and read her list), go to You may also contact Dr. Brittany Hagen at or 701-788-4828.

Photo captions: 

Top: Students, faculty, and staff at Mayville State are organizing a project to raise funds to purchase backpacks for school children in Nepal. Children need to climb very steep hills to get to and from their school in Singulpuchek, Nepal. The backpacks will make their lives easier.

Second: Ann Nicole Nelson.

Third: Annie’s House at Bottineau (N.D.) Winter Park, provides year-around adaptive recreation opportunities for wounded veterans and people with disabilities.

Bottom: Children enjoy learning at t the early childhood development center built in Singulpuchek, Nepal, in memory of Ann Nicole Nelson, Stanley, N.D. native who perished in the attack of the Twin Trade Towers on September 11, 2001.