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JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: 100 percent Graduation Rate: How goes it?

John Eggers

It can't happen!

People haven't said it, but I know some are thinking it. How is it possible to graduate every student in Red Lake, Bemidji and in all of Beltrami County? Here's how. I personally have a lot of faith in the Red Lake people, Bemidji folks and in our county. We all know the value of a high school diploma and when people realize that it's really up to them when determining the fate of our young people, every adult will do their part and every young person will graduate.

It's just a bunch of fluff.

Yes, at first glance, it might appear that way. After all, it doesn't cost anything. It doesn't take a huge power point presentation to explain it. There is no grandiose strategic plan, so how can it possibly be achieved? That's the beauty of Project Graduate and the goal of 100 percent. If it did cost something, communities wouldn't go for it. They are out of money and the same thing with schools. Does everything good and purposeful have to cost something? Does everything good and purposeful necessitate a big plan and lots of committees? The answer is no. What it does take is commitment and a resolve to ensure that every young person gets the message that he or she is capable of graduating from high school. They need to hear that message over and over again. You and I are the messengers.

Who has the faith?

The reason I have faith that a 100 percent graduation rate can be accomplished is because of the groups that have said, "We can do this. We support it." These groups are at Red Lake: Red Lake Tribal Council, Red Lake New Beginnings, Red Lake Family and Children Services, Red Lake Veterans, and the Red Lake Head Start. I am confident more will come on board when they are approached. In Bemidji the groups are: Bemidji Lions, Bemidji Sunrise Rotary, Bemidji Noon Rotary, St. Philip's, Calvary Lutheran, Boys and Girls Club, First National Bank, Beltrami Historical Society, Bemidji Food Shelf, Paul Bunyan Broadcasting, Paul Bunyan Communications and Beltrami County Fair Board. We are talking to more groups every week. We were especially pleased that the Bemidji City Council and the Beltrami County Commissioners also passed resolutions in support of 100 percent graduation rate. We are thankful to the Pioneer for placing a 100 percent tip box alongside my column. (If your group would like to support 100 percent and you have not been contacted, please call me at (218) 766-9009.)

Who's "we"?

An advisory board exists both for Bemidji and for Red Lake. I (John Eggers) go to them for suggestions and advice and to plan next steps.

What are the next steps?

We are waiting on a few more organizations both at Red Lake and Bemidji to support 100 percent. We are having some window decals made to give to businesses and organizations that support a 100 percent graduation rate. We will also be contacting other towns in Beltrami County. There will be PSA announcements on the radio and television. Red Lake veterans are having some buttons made for us. Lakeland Current is also planning to do a half hour episode on Project Graduate and 100 percent. Schools will be contacted late spring and early summer.

Why haven't the schools already been contacted? Don't they have sole ownership for the graduation rate?

Schools have taken ownership for the graduation rate ever since birth of public schools almost 200 years ago. As much as they have tried a consistent goal of 100 percent has never been achieved. Why? A goal this lofty can never and will never be achieved if schools alone assume responsibility. The community also has to do its fair share. By community, that means everyone regardless of whether or not they have children in school. We all want 100 percent of our kids to graduate and everyone has to do their part. Schools will be contacted when a large portion of the community is behind 100%. We are now at that point.

What exactly is it that we all have to do?

Anyone who ever graduated form high school or college had a message planted in their brain that told them this is what they needed to do. That message was planted largely by themselves, their parents, grandparents, and peers. Teachers then reinforced it. If teachers alone could do this, we would already have accomplished our goal. This is why you and I and your neighbor and your neighbor's neighbor need to get involved and remind kids that their number one goal is to graduate from high school.

How will we know when we have accomplished our goal?

You walk down the streets of Red Lake, Redby, Blackduck, or Bemidji, for example, and you ask someone on the street, "What's the high school graduation rate goal of our students?" When they answer, "100 percent", you know we are on our way to accomplishing our goal.

Riddle: What did the scientist say to the hydrogen atom that claimed it lost an electron? "Are you positive?" We all need to be positive that 100 percent of our students can graduate.

100 percent graduation rate

A local movement is underway to ensure the area has a 100 percent high school graduation rate. Here's some tips on how you can help us achieve that goal:

1. We all have to show confidence in the ability of our students to graduate. There is no such word as "can't."

2. Beltrami County has the responsibility to show other communities and counties that we can graduate 100 percent of our students. When we do it, others will follow.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.

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