Laura Lavelle: Here’s the dirt about Bear River HS |

Laura Lavelle: Here’s the dirt about Bear River HS

Alexander Rossi, a professional Formula One BMW race car driver from Nevada City, competed in the Brazilian Grand Prix when he was just 17 years old.

What is more amazing than his racing accomplishments is the fact that this young man took time to address a group of Bear River High School students about the importance of wearing safety belts. This was during a “Project Impact” presentation at the school a couple of years ago.

In another astounding gesture, Rossi mailed dirt from the race in Brazil back to the high school. The dirt was addressed to longtime BRHS employee Patti Ehlers, a collector of dirt, rocks and sand.

Ehlers, who has worked in the school district for 25 years, has become an iconic fixture in Bear River’s student store. A small part of her charm is her collection of dirt from students and co-workers.

Patti, who “can’t imagine working anywhere else,” loves her job working with the children, and it seems obvious the students are fond of her, too.

Present and former students have presented Patti with evidence of their extensive travels. She now has a collection of souvenir soil samples from important spots around the globe that, as she reports, “the kids like to see.”

The collection began when a student brought in sand from a vacation in Hawaii, and Patti displayed it in the school’s Student Activities Office.

Patti estimates that she has more than 50 samples from every continent. One of her favorite specimens is dirt from Graceland, straight from Elvis’ grave. This was given to her by security officer Silvia Ramirez.

Choir teacher Alissa Aune brought Patti sand and shells from a trip to the Fiji Islands. Patti’s daughter, Brandi, brought her volcanic rock from Greece. She also has samples from Hiroshima and Tokyo, Japan.

As assistant to the high school’s athletic director, Patti’s job entails much more than just recreational geology. She coordinates a multitude of student activities, sporting events and other school-related activities.

Patti had this information about upcoming events at Bear River:

Tonight, Sept. 13, is Back-to-School Night, beginning at 6 p.m. with a short welcome in the Bear River Theater, followed by classroom visits.

A special program available for local seniors is the Silver Bruins. If you are 62 or older, you qualify for a card that gives you free admission to all BRHS home games. Applications for the Silver Bruins card are available at the Student Activities Office.

The Grad Night committee already is making plans for this year’s Grad Night and welcomes all volunteers. The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20.

A benefit for Women of Worth is being presented by the South Nevada County Chamber of Commerce.

“Regional Wines: A Tasting” will start at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, at the Art du Jour/PointClickPrint at 10966 Combie Road. Tickets are $20. For more info, call PointClickPrint at (530) 268-6318 or WOW at (530) 272-6851.

Laura Lavelle’s column is for southern Nevada County residents to share thoughts and information. Contact her at or leave a message at (530) 477-4230.

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