I have written several columns about the district’s vision which we refer to as our Portrait of a Graduate. The vision contains five points of emphasis: Core Knowledge; Creative Problem-Solver; Communicator; Character and Contributing Citizen. I have covered every topic during this year with the exception of Contributing Citizen.
The following paragraph is a brief narrative intended to capture some of the basic tenets of Contributing Citizen:
Otters should have pride in themselves, their school, their community and their country. We want our students to have respect and appreciation for the freedoms we have as U.S. citizens. We acknowledge that we each have a responsibility to be agents of change - actively engaged in efforts to improve our local community, state and country. We want to cultivate the idea that through serving and stewardship, we can positively impact the world around us. It is essential that we develop cultural awareness so that we might better understand, accept and communicate with people who may have different knowledge, customs and beliefs than our own.
In many ways, Contributing Citizen is the most important piece of all. It requires proficiency and development in each of the other areas to positively impact the world around us. It reflects both our local commitments and those of our country as a leader in a global community. It stands as the culminating, enduring product of the work. And what a product it is!
I have been in this business for a long time now. Each year, I am blessed to stand at a podium and deliver a few remarks to a group of seniors at graduation. I am very proud of these young men and women. I am proud of the role their parents played in raising them, proud of the community for supporting them and proud of the school district for seeing their potential and providing them with daily opportunities to reach it. Every person who touches their lives leaves an imprint. Together, we make a very effective team.
The students themselves? They are difference makers. Whether they realized it or not, they have been contributing members of our community all along. As their skills and confidence have grown, they become more self-aware of their ability to contribute to the world around them. And what of that impact? What’s it all for? What’s the purpose? I would suggest that it is to make the world a better place.
I received a photo from a local business owner last week. It showed Jon Steinbrenner, our middle school assistant principal, out with several middle school student council students picking up trash in our community. On April 28th, each advisory at the ALC participated in Pay It Forward Day. Advisories cleaned up road ditches, read with elementary students, bowled with day treatment students, and worked with the Humane Society. The high school staff is working on June service learning projects. The projects utilize a project-based learning approach with the goal of supporting our local community. Some of their ideas: planting flowers; playing music at retirement/nursing homes; helping at Prairie Wetlands and the Humane Society; planting trees, volunteering at the public library; visiting the Veterans Home; and cleaning up city parks. Are they making a difference? You bet they are!
As a community, when we align our spirit, our goals, our time and our energy the results are profound.
Last week was one of those times. I cannot adequately convey my appreciation for the response from my colleagues at the school who were there for our students, our community and each other. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the support given to the school by many others. We had a host of people come to the school with mental health and grief counseling expertise. Food was dropped off. I had a number of community members, friends and past colleagues reach out to let me know that our school and community were in their thoughts and prayers.
Contributing citizens. Knowledge, skills, communication, character, thoughtfulness, empathy and compassion - it was all there. That’s community. That’s what’s happening within Fergus Falls Public Schools.