Building Community Pride Through Public Policy Lessons
Not too long ago I had a wonderful opportunity to talk about my favorite subject, my small, rural town of Windom. As the founder of Finding Windom, Inc, a grassroots organization dedicated to community and economic development, the social studies teacher invited me to talk to the school’s seniors, the Windom Area High School Class of 2011.
I was pretty excited, especially since I sat in those same chairs a mere 10 years ago. I felt a connection to these students because I know what it feels like to want to get the heck out of town, to feel like I have the whole world at my fingertips, big dreams begging to be accomplished in the big world beyond these classroom walls and city limits. This is a normal feeling I would assume for any high school graduate, right?
“So, tell me about your Windom.” I enthusiastically said to a classroom full of students who not surprisingly thought I was crazy to be so excited at 8:15 in the morning, especially so excited about Windom.
“Okay, tell me what you like to do in Windom.”
You can imagine how my mind was scrambling to come up with something in order to get these kids to talk about Windom. I mean I can think of a billion reasons why Windom is a good place to be, but I guess my list didn’t exist 10 years ago either when I sat in the same chairs in the same classroom.
It took me too long to realize just how progressive and how much opportunity Windom and small towns like it offer. I don’t want it to take that long for the class of 2011 or future classes of Windom Area Schools.
This is why I couldn’t be more excited for Community Pride Day 2011.
Merriam Webster defines pride as “a reasonable or justifiable self respect.” On the last day of school (May 23rd), Windom Area Schools is partnering with Finding Windom to host the event in an effort to provide these rural students every reason to justify self respect when it comes to the community they live in.
Students will start the day with a Finding Windom video presentation, showing them things they might take for granted or don’t even realize about our community, like our great parks, outdoor activities, community organizations, and local businesses—all the things that make Windom unique.
The video will also shed light on how easy it is to make the community a better place to live, such as picking up trash and supporting local businesses. Finally, the video will showcase all the people working every day to ensure our city runs smoothly.
The remainder of the morning will consist of community service work throughout the town. After a picnic lunch, students will get a firsthand look at the equipment and people behind our city services, businesses and organizations.
Among the organizations planning to participate are the police, fire and emergency medical departments, Economic Development Authority, the Toro Company, the Windom Area Chamber of Commerce, Citizen Publishing, Plum Creek Library, and the Business, Arts and Recreation Center.
Community Pride Day is not only for students at Windom Area Schools to thank the community for their ongoing support, but to show students how a city and the businesses within it operate. I’m a firm believer that when something is fully understood, it can be fully appreciated.
Someday these students will have to decide where to live, work and play. Early community immersion will give them a feeling of ownership in the community. It will also teach them a valuable lesson in public policy.
We want these students to see the entrepreneurs and opportunities in Windom. This will play a role in how these students view the community and hopefully give them a positive view of this town when they decide where to make their lives.
Community Pride Day should stir up some good conversation about Windom among our students because the only place I want to hear crickets is on a quiet, hot summer night.