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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Next Generation Storyteller: Cooper Gamble

Maria Wagner is the owner of the company Center For DBT, LLC, located on 19th Street NW. Not only is she a highly qualified therapist, she is also my step mom. She inspires me to give back to the community because of her hard work throughout her life motivates me to never give up on a dream and to help others, because often times you will be rewarded greatly.

Why did you choose to give back to the community by taking on the role of a therapist? Maria chose to become a therapist because she felt compelled to help others in times of hardship and struggle. Her past experiences greatly impacted her choice.

What experiences have you had in your life that make you who you are today? Growing up with a large family on a dairy farm, with many daily chores, often challenging ones, planted a foundation of hard work. When she was in graduate school, she had two internships, both in which she worked with people coming to America because of persecution due to religion and other reasons. Most of them were tortured and beaten by people who discriminated them. This experience opened her eyes to the real struggles that people go through.

What advice do you have for others? Maria would tell others to pay attention to relationships. They are the most important things in life. You have relationships with just about everything. Friends. Companies. Pets. She tells her clients to keep relationships healthy and keep communication open with others.

In what ways do you think you affect or inspire others to give back to the community? She believes that she inspires others to volunteer and mentor others as a form of giving back to the community. She tells her clients and other people she knows this piece of advice.

I also interviewed Maria’s partner, and my mom, Heather Santilli. One of the things I love most about my mom is her uniqueness. She has one of the most awesome styles I’ve ever known.

First of all, how did you meet Maria? Heather and Maria met when Maria’s child, Peyton, and Heather’s kids, Cooper, Megan, and Emilia all went to summer camp together. Multiple times, during the pickup and drop off times at the camp, Maria and Heather ran into each other. Quickly, they began to connect, and wanted to spend their life together.

Specifically, what kinds of things or ways does she inspire you to do to give back to the community? Heather feels inspired by Maria's actions because of the fact that all of her time at work is spent helping others. Heather works with computers St an IT job, so she feels her job does not help others very much compared to how much Maria's job does. She feels inspired to find ways to give back more.

What percentage do think you are affected by her actions of giving back? Heather feels deeply affected because it opens her eyes to see how lucky Heather really is, and that people do struggle with huge things in life.

Is Maria more of a companion, role model, or best friend to you? Heather feels that Maria is more of a best friend because as her partner, Maria goes through what Heather does, and helps Heather through hard times, just as Heather does the same for Maria.

Maria Wagner is an inspiration, role model, and amazing step mom to me. Her actions of giving back inspire many people, my mom and I are just two examples. 

Cooper Gamble, a 6th grader at Friedell Middle School, was a finalist for the 2017 Next Generation Storytellers contest, presented by Bolder Options Rochester and the Med City Beat.

Read submissions from all the finalists.

Next Generation Storyteller: Alicia Niemann

Next Generation Storyteller: Akhil Kollengode