Will we graduate 100% of our students this year?

We will graduate 100% of our students when adults, especially parents, accept the responsibility that the graduation rate is largely dependent upon their interaction with their children and everyone's tenacity to spread the message that young people can and should graduate from high school. If we don't graduate 100% of our students, then we have to work harder at persuading our young people that their life is not complete unless they have a high school diploma.

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Shouldn't young people accept some responsibility?

Certainly. It's up to them to carry the ball across the goal line, to finish the race, to make the winning shot. It's up to adults to see that students think positively about graduating, to ensure they are learning and to help them find the school where they can find success and graduate. Lowering our standards is not an option.

What are some signs we are making progress?

At the time of this writing, we have 220 organizations and agencies that choose to help spread the word. Some of the most recent supporters include the Empowered Youth Development Initiatives, Bemidji Chamber of Commerce, Kelliher First State Bank, Pets Plus, Bemidji Sports Centre, Bemidji Marine and Red Lake's Family and Children Services. When more organizations sign on, we can feel more confident that the word will spread to parents and students about the need to graduate. When I knock on doors to solicit support, about five out of 10 businesses and agencies in Bemidji already know about the 100% movement. In Red Lake, it's about eight out of 10. This is a good sign. The Public Service Announcements by Paul Bunyan Broadcasting have been especially helpful.

Does the current rise in the state graduation rate have anything to do with 100%?

I wish I could say that it did, but outside of Beltrami County and the communities of Clearbrook and Northome, I doubt if too many people have heard of our movement. Gov. Tim Walz, prior to his election, did give verbal support for the movement when he came to Red Lake on two occasions. We just need to remind him again. What if he suggested that it become a statewide goal? Why not? Write and tell him.

How do you account for the current rise in the graduation rate?

School districts are continuously doing many fine things to keep kids in school. The graduation rate for white students is about 84%. The graduation rate for other ethnic groups is improving but considerably lower. We can solve this problem and we will solve it when the total community gets behind the effort. Think about the good it will do for everyone when Beltrami County becomes the first county in the United States to have a 100% graduation rate. Wow!

What more needs to be done?

Our goal is to contact most, if not all, businesses, organizations and agencies in the county. If your organization is not included in the 220 but you would like to be included, please contact me at (218) 766-9009. By the way, this includes religious organizations and fraternal and youth groups. Those that are on board need to remind their people to continue to spread the word. If you need flyers, let me know.

What is the price tag for spreading the word?

The Red Lake builders provided a thousand dollars to provide a "Get Ready To Graduate" coloring, thinking and drawing book for all Red Lake students. The Sunrise Rotary included a leaflet along with a dictionary that was given to all third graders in Bemidji and Red Lake. Paul Bunyan Broadcasting has done three different Public Service Announcements. Many organizations like Lions, Eagles, Calvary Lutheran, and the Pioneer have placed notices in their papers about tips on how to help students graduate. It's important that Project Graduate remains a "no cost" program as much as possible so it could be duplicated in other communities and we can say, "It doesn't cost a dime." Not many programs like this can say that. We can't forget that when a high school student stays in school and does not leave early, the district saves well over $1,000.

Why should 100% of our students graduate?

I could name a hundred reasons why but I will give just one. After attending school for 11 or 12 years, it's important that we help every student find success on this initial first big step in their life. Even 99.9% would not be satisfactory. If our students are to face the very complicated, complex, and confusing future that we will leave them, it's important that 100% of our students experience the self-confidence that a high school diploma will give them.

On behalf of the Red Lake and Bemidji Advisory Boards-who make me better at what I do-and for the many people who continue to encourage this movement, miigwech and thank you very much. We can and will do it.

Riddle: How is it possible to pitch a winning baseball game without throwing a ball? (Throw only strikes.) Throwing strikes to kids in terms of reminding them to graduate will help them win the big game of life. 

100% graduation

What more can teachers do as the school year begins to wind down?

1. If you haven't asked your students to dedicate the school year to someone, it's not too late. Doing so might change the whole attitude of some students.

2. Ask students, regardless of grade level, how many expect to graduate from high school. Should some students not raise their hand, speak to them in private.

3. If you send home a newsletter or email to parents, give them some tips on what they can do to help their children graduate.

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




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