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Cannon Falls grad back from Egypt

A Cannon Falls High School graduate has returned safely from a three-week trip to Egypt.

Maren Peterson, a senior at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., arrived in Minneapolis Tuesday afternoon, her mother, Jane Peterson, said.

Peterson and approximately 70 other members of the college's band left for Egypt Jan. 9. The students spent time touring the country, going to events and performing. They were originally to return to South Dakota Jan. 29, Jane Peterson said.

When protests began in Cairo last week, the Augustana students had just arrived in that city.

Their fifth and final band performance of the trip set for Friday night at Cairo's Mubarak Hall was canceled, and the band moved from a downtown hotel to one nearer the airport Thursday.

"The safety and security of our students is always our top concern," Rob Oliver, president of Augustana, said last week.

"We're doing everything possible to keep our students out of the areas of unrest. After speaking with our tour coordinators early (Friday) morning, we made the decision to move our students to the Iberotel Cairo Hotel, far away from the areas where demonstrations are occurring, as a precautionary measure."

Maren Peterson was part of the last group of Augustana students to leave Egypt. Her group took a KLM flight from Cairo to Amsterdam on Monday morning, her mother said, where they spent the night before getting a Delta flight to Minneapolis on Tuesday.

The first groups had returned South Dakota Monday night.

Jane Peterson said she talked to her daughter over Skype last Thursday, but Maren "didn't say a lot" about the protests.

Still, Jane Peterson said she wasn't worried about her daughter's safety.

"(Augustana College) has done an excellent job of keeping them safe and communicating with the parents," she said.

"I was really confident that it was very well-planned and they would be very much on their toes and aware." She added that she hopes the disruptions to the trip in its final days won't overshadow the rest of the trip, something Augustana President Oliver agrees with.

"Our students have experienced the culture and history of Egypt and have participated in four amazing concerts during their time in the country," Oliver said. "Canceling (Friday) evening's concert won't diminish the experience they've had."

Protesters are calling for President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for about 30 years, to step down. On Tuesday, the United States government ordered all non-essential government personnel and their families to leave Egypt, a sign the nation is unstable.

Tom Lawrence. a Forum Communications Co. staff writer with the Daily Republic in Mitchell, S.D., contributed to this report.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.