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Mason City third-graders experience immigration of past generations (with photos)

MASON CITY | Ashlan Meyers, a third-grader at Jefferson Elementary School, knew why immigrants came to America a century ago.

"They were coming to a land of freedom," she said proudly as she and 90 classmates boarded the "USS Jefferson" and went through a simulated immigration experience at the school on Friday.

The students, wearing typical modern garb such as Iowa Hawkeye T-shirts, Green Bay Packer stocking caps and Star Wars apparel, were taken into yesteryear as they suddenly became foreigners looking for a new life.

They got their passports in their own classrooms, then went down a hall and boarded the boat — the classroom of teacher Sheryl Mariner.

Some had first-class tickets in a more spacious part of the room. Others were crowded into the steerage area — the cheap seats — where they got an idea of what it would be like to be that cramped for what, in real life, was a four-week journey.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Students in steerage jokingly sneer at their classmates in first-class, who have more comfortable living conditions on their boat, during a simulated immigration process at Jefferson Elementary School on Friday.

Levi Smith was one of the youngsters in steerage and he knew the kind of journey that awaited him. "It's horrible, it's crowded and we're at the bottom. The boat will rock a lot," he said.

The children were shown video shots of a typical boat with its uncomfortable conditions and of Ellis Island, where some people waited for hours to be processed once they got off the boat.

The kids then got a sense of what immigrants went through as they experienced simulated screening for medical conditions and being evaluated to make sure all of their legal paperwork was in order.

At that point they learned whether they could enter America, be detained or be deported.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Students at Jefferson Elementary School line up, with passports in hand, and are led through a simulated immigration process at the school on Friday. Based on the fake passports and cash each had, the students were then split up between first-class and steerage in a classroom, their "boat," and are taught about the four-week journey real immigrants experienced in the early 1900s.

"We deported about six kids," Mariner said. "They were deported if they didn't pass both the medical and legal inspection. It was totally random."

She said the kids who took it seriously realized that after all their hard work, they would have to go back where they came from. "They were sad," Mariner said.

Another life lesson occurred when twins were separated, one being allowed in America, and one detained. "That made for a good conversation," she said.

"We are focusing on the historical perspective of immigration as part of our social studies unit," said Mariner. "We have not talked much about the current immigration events."

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Jefferson Elementary School third-grader Isak Torres shows his passport to teacher Sheryl Mariner, who promptly escorts him to the steerage section, during a simulated immigration process at the school on Friday.

She said the goal was for the children to learn what it felt like for the immigrants who came to America long ago, focusing on immigrants from Germany, Italy, Ireland and Japan in the early 1900s.

"Students learned a bit about why these immigrants chose America," Mariner said.

When the students had found their seats in first class and steerage on the USS Jefferson, and while they were waiting for their next instructions, they broke into a chant.

"USA, USA, USA," they shouted.

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North Iowa man who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting child wins $100K lottery prize

ALDEN | An Alden man awaiting sentencing for sexually assaulting a child has won a $100,000 lottery prize. 

Dean Edward Hilpipre, 61, presented his winning lottery ticket Wednesday at the Mason City office and received his prize.

Hilpipre is recently retired, according to the Iowa Lottery, and told lottery officials he plans to use his winnings to purchase a home. 

Hilpipre was charged with two counts of felony second-degree sexual abuse on July 24, 2017, in Hardin County. He is accused of committing two sexual acts on a female child under the age of 12 between January 2012 and November 2016, according to court documents. 

In Iowa law, rape and sexual assault are called "sexual abuse."

He was arrested in August and posted a $25,000 bond. A no-contact order was issued in September for the victim and the victim’s family.

Hilpipre agreed to enter a guilty plea to a lesser charge, lascivious acts with a child, in December. That charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $1,000 fine. 

The plea agreement dismissed the two counts of second-degree sexual abuse. One count carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison. 

Hilpipre will be sentenced Feb. 23 in Hardin County District Court. 

Vice President of Iowa Lottery External Relations Mary Neubauer said Friday she was aware of the situation.

“The circumstances that may have existed in a person’s life … they are wholly separate,” Neubauer said.

When a winner comes in to collect a prize, they are subject to security questions, she said. Those questions involve how they came about the ticket and more. None of those security procedures include a criminal background check that would disqualify a prize.

“Anyone from anywhere can win a lottery,” Neubauer said.

The person’s name is run through a state database to see if the person owes back taxes, child support or other fines. Those funds would be dealt with as necessary.

As justification for the plea agreement, court documents said Hilpipre underwent a psychosexual evaluation by state-approved psychologist Tracy Thomas.

Thomas reported her conclusions to Assistant Iowa Attorney General Susan Krisko Dec. 18. 

According to court documents, the report said Hilpipre “is in the lowest 1.3 percentile of likely recidivism.”

“He received the lowest score possible, a minus 3, which makes him a 'very low risk'; his likelihood of future offending is .9 percent over 5 years,” the documents said.

Hilpipre and his attorney, George Appleby of Des Moines, submitted a proposed sentence for the plea agreement, asking for a suspended prison sentence with a probation period of five years. According to the court document, the state agreed to recommend a probation sentence and the state would agree to a minimum fine.

Hilpipre and his attorney, in documents arguing for the suspended sentence with probation, said Hilpipre has been continuously employed in Alden for 42 years as of Jan. 4, has no criminal convictions, no deferments of judgments and has been married for 42 years.

Once sentenced, Hilpipre would not be allowed to drink alcohol and must undergo sex offender treatment.

He would also be subject to a special sentence for sex offenders involving lifetime parole, court documents say. He must register as a sex offender, be annually photographed by the sheriff's office and submit a DNA sample. 

Hilpipre would also agree to a continuation of the no-contact order with the minor victim for five years.

Flu widespread across US for third straight week

NEW YORK — Sick with the flu? You've got a lot of company.

The flu blanketed the U.S. again last week for the third straight week. Only Hawaii has been spared.

Last week, 1 in 15 doctor visits were for symptoms of the flu. That's the highest level since the swine flu pandemic in 2009. The government doesn't track every flu case but comes up with estimates; one measure is how many people seek medical care for fever, cough, aches and other flu symptoms.

Flu is widespread in every state except Hawaii, with 39 states reporting high traffic to doctors last week, up from 32.

At this rate, by the end of the season somewhere around 34 million Americans will have gotten sick from the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Some good news: Hospital stays and deaths from the flu among the elderly so far haven't been as high as in some other recent flu seasons. However, hospitalization rates for people 50 to 64 — baby boomers, mostly — has been unusually high, CDC officials said in the report, which covers the week ending Jan. 20.

A New York pediatrician said her office has been busy but the kids with the flu haven't been quite as sick as in the past.

"For most of them, their symptoms are milder," said Dr. Tiffany Knipe.

This year's flu shot targets the strains that are making Americans sick, mostly the H3N2 flu virus. But exactly how well it is working won't be known until next month. It's the same main bug from last winter, when the flu season wasn't so bad. It's not clear why this season — with the same bug — is worse, some experts said.

"That's the kicker. This virus really doesn't look that different from what we saw last year," said Richard Webby, a flu researcher at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

It may be that many of the people getting sick this year managed to avoid infection last year. Or there may be some change in the virus that hasn't been detected yet, said the CDC's Dr. Dan Jernigan, in a call with reporters Friday.

Based on patterns from past seasons, it's likely the flu season will start to wane soon, experts say. There are some places, like California, where the season already seems to be easing, CDC officials said.

"If I was a betting man, I'd put money on it going down," Webby said. "But I've lost money on bets before."

The season usually peaks in February, but this season started early and took off in December.

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness. It can cause a miserable but relatively mild illness in many people, but more a more severe illness in others. Young children and the elderly are at greatest risk from flu and its complications. In a bad season, there are as many as 56,000 deaths connected to the flu.

In the U.S., annual flu shots are recommended for everyone age 6 months or older. Last season, about 47 percent of Americans got vaccinated, according to CDC figures.

Jennifer Manton didn't get a flu shot and got sick about two weeks ago, hit by high fever and body aches. She missed two days of work at a New York law firm, and felt bad for about 10 days.

"I had not had the flu since 1996," said the 48-year-old Manton. "It's been 22 years since I felt that badly."