We shared a communication similar to this with our West Fargo Public Schools staff this fall,
and I thought it might be of interest to Pioneer readers as well. I cannot think of a more
impactful profession than ours; education is without question the greatest and most important
endeavor. It literally shapes the future, as our district mission states: Educating today's learners
for tomorrow's world. To engage in the education profession, however, is also to be frustrated
by the limitations of our capacity to impact each individual life we touch each day in our
classrooms to the degree to which we aspire. I am conscious each day of the reality that
educators cannot do it alone. We can inspire, we can teach, facilitate, and cheerlead. Yet, some
children's past and current pathways are so strewn with obstacles and hardships that it
diminishes the powers of the best teachers and best schools working to raise them up. We
cannot do it alone.
A student who does not graduate from high school is twice as likely to live in poverty throughout
their life, and 63 times more likely to be incarcerated. What circumstances might contribute to
their not graduating?
Poverty: Over 30 percent of our children in WFPS qualify for free or reduced price lunch—an
indicator of poverty.
Homelessness: 17 percent of the homeless population are children.
Hunger: Too many of our children do not have adequate nourishment over the weekend
or the summer months.
Mental health and lack of access to mental health services: 11-16 percent of students
(depending on the school) in our middle schools and high schools report having
seriously considered suicide on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey
Poor pre-school experiences and support: 90 percent of a child's brain development occurs
before their fifth birthday.
I am grateful and indebted to our community... a community that truly cares. Through United
Way and countless other non-profit organizations, selfless people step up to try to make our
jobs easier. They give and they support so the children we serve will be more prepared, more
likely to rise above the circumstances that would limit their educational success. For example,
last year over 1,400 children in 25 different schools in the metro community received backpacks
of food on Fridays to prevent hunger over the weekend. All of United Way's Bold Goals for
2016-2019 directly or indirectly impact families, children, and our students' chances of
succeeding in our classrooms: reduce hunger and homelessness, prepare children to succeed,
help people be independent, and lift people out of poverty. Every dollar that goes to United Way
will be dedicated in some way to one or more of these bold goals.
This year United Way and Sanford Health, with support from the Goetz Mental Wellness
Foundation/Imagine Thriving, are paying for a Student Wellness Facilitator in our schools to
help navigate pathways to services for students experiencing or at risk of experiencing mental
health related crises.
For these reasons, I continue to give to United Way. I cannot do the job alone that is entrusted
to me, and I am grateful to a community that cares. Thank you to those in our community who
give, and to those who have not considered it, please do.
Many know that I make kaleidoscopes in my woodworking shop. Again this year, I pledged to
give two of them away to two district employee donors to United Way, drawn at random from a
hat. I believe a kaleidoscope is a powerful metaphor for transformation. A kaleidoscope turns
brokenness and chaos into hope and order through the magic of the mirrors. Be one of the
mirrors ... be a reflection of our higher purpose as a community...to raise one another up, to
support, and to transform, thus touching the future.