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Connecting with community: TrekNorth graduate Ally Dickinson works toward equality

Since her sixth grade year Ally Dickinson has found her home at TrekNorth Junior and Senior High School, but once graduation arrives May 27, she’ll be leaving one community for a different one.

Ally Dickinson WEB.jpg
Aly Dickinson will graduate as part of TrekNorth’s class of 2022 at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 27.
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BEMIDJI — Since her sixth grade year Ally Dickinson has found her home at TrekNorth Junior and Senior High School , but once graduation arrives May 27, she’ll be leaving one community for a different one.

“I’m ready for this next transition in my life. I thoroughly enjoyed high school, but I’m at the point where I’m ready to get it over with,” Dickinson said. “It’s sad because I’m really going to miss everyone in this community, but I’m very excited for the new community I’ll get to be in.”

She plans to attend Hamline University in St. Paul with eventual hopes of earning her master’s degree and becoming a director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“I’ll get the rest of my generals out of the way, then pick a specific program after that,” Dickinson added. “I know what I’m passionate about, so I’ll kind of go from there and see which program works for me.”

Forming her fight

Dickinson’s life experiences played a fundamental role in creating her future career goals.

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Born in Guatemala, Dickinson was adopted and brought to Minnesota when she was 6 months old.

Dickinson admits to losing some connection to her Guatemalan and Mayan heritage, though she credits her adoptive parents for continuing a dialogue about her home country.

“It’s hard if you’re not Latin to keep certain traditions going,” she said. “Regardless, my adoptive parents have told me everything they know about Guatemala and my family there.”

Dickinson’s mother did not graduate from high school motivating Dickinson to pursue her collegiate endeavors.

“A big motivator for me is to show other Latin women, especially Indigenous Latin women, that we do have power as first-generation college students to overcome those barriers that were made for us,” she said.

Dickinson’s adoptive mother has worked at the Boys and Girls Club in St. Cloud as well as being an emergency medical technician, experiences which Dickinson credits for her interest in equality.

“She came across all different walks of life and as I grew up, she always wanted to make sure I really knew what I was fighting for,” Dickinson said. “I owe my strength and passion to fight for equality to my mom.”

Dickinson possessed dual citizenship until she was a teenager, at which point the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement challenged her citizenship.

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“It was either on my 14th or 16th birthday that my adoptive mom got a letter from ICE. It basically stated if I wasn’t able to prove that I was a citizen, they would deport me,” Dickinson recalled. “I came to the U.S. legally, but when Trump became president I wasn’t able to keep that dual citizenship.”

Another major motivator came on Dickinson’s 17th birthday when her adoptive father passed away.

“He was my biggest mentor and a super active part of my schooling. If I owe anything to anyone, it would be my father just for how much drive he put in me as well as empathy,” she said. “I just want to make him proud.”

Dickinson struggled to navigate her adoptive father’s passing, and with the help of TrekNorth teacher Michael Munson, was able to get an academic appeal in school.

“After my dad passed away, I let 30 missing assignments pile up and I just wasn’t in a good place,” she said. “It reflected on my grades, but I will always have such high respect and gratitude for Munson giving me that wiggle room in my grade.”

The TrekNorth appeal

Throughout her hardships, Dickinson always tried her best and maintained connections that would help her succeed.

One way she achieved this was transferring to TrekNorth after her fifth grade year at Lincoln Elementary, a mutual decision made between Dickinson and her adoptive mother.

“I didn’t want to be in a very big public school, so my mom and I talked about what would suit me best and set me up for success,” Dickinson said. “With my personality and needs, we decided that TrekNorth was going to be the best choice.”

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Part of TrekNorth’s appeal was its outdoor experience and service learning programs, through which Dickinson was able to visit South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia throughout middle and high school. Each trip involved outdoor excursions, leadership development opportunities or community service.

Her most recent service learning trip to Texas a few months ago allowed all attending students to learn about immigration and help out various communities.

“We visited the border and spent hours in the grueling hot Texas sun helping to paint a church, ripping out Sheetrock, moving wood,” Dickinson detailed. “We were able to help this community and make an impact we could visibly see.”

This trip holds a special place in Dickinson’s heart as there was a predominate Latin population in the area they were working.

“It was just so relieving to see people who looked like me and knowing that the work we were doing was helping my own community,” Dickinson added. “For the short time I was there, it felt like my community.”

Though the coronavirus pandemic halted nearly all trips and limited Dickinson’s other activities — including National Honor Society, student council, Native Youth Council and more — Dickinson never lost perspective when preparing for life after high school.

“A big lesson I’ve learned is that if you need help, you have to take the active step of asking for help,” she added. “You have to take accountability and initiative to get something done. Not everything is going to fall in your lap.”

Dickinson credits the TrekNorth teachers and staff for instilling these lessons throughout her high school years and the pandemic for helping her realize the importance of community at the school.

“Doing school from home made me feel like I lost a sense of community. There are all these teachers constantly helping and lifting you up, which you maybe don’t realize when you’re in school, but you do notice it when you’re away from school,” Dickinson said. “I’ve always resonated with the phrase, ‘it takes a village.’”

TrekNorth’s graduation will take place at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 27.

Related Topics: TREK NORTHEDUCATION
Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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