MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The end of high school is a time for most students to collect — a diploma, graduation cards, maybe a few gifts.

One Milaca-area student, though, decided to give back as he graduated.

Accurate forecasts start with accurate observations. WCCO Weather Watcher Alex Ziegler realized an electronic weather station could help his school district make decisions about weather-related delays and closings, and inspire the next generation of weather fanatics at the same time.

So he got to work and raised $2,000 to buy one.

He’s been a WCCO weather watcher since 2016 and, this winter, even used his observations to help the Milaca Public Schools superintendent decide whether to cancel or delay school.

“I can tell you he didn’t even try to fool me with anything. He was honest with me the entire time,” Superintendent Tim Truebenbach said.

Last summer, with graduation and a move to St. Cloud State University on the horizon, he thought the district could use its own on-site weather station, and started raising money to buy one. His plan included a mix of traditional and creative methods, from mailed-out flyers to cameos on his father’s business calls.

The payoff came Monday at the school board meeting.

It was a 2008 tornado outbreak that inspired Alex to study the weather.

“Sirens in Milaca were just blaring and I was scared out of my mind because the sirens were going off, and I didn’t want to be sucked up into the tornado. I was 8 years old so I didn’t really understand it fully,” Ziegler said.

Now he hopes his donation will inspire others.

“This has been a really great project for me to do and I really hope it will inspire others to do it as well for their schools and communities,” he said.

Alex Ziegler is also working to get sirens donated to some of the surrounding communities that don’t already have them. He will start studying meteorology at St. Cloud State University this fall, and hopes to work for the National Weather Service when he graduates.

To become a WCCO Weather Watcher, click here.

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