At the time of this writing we have over 500 cases of coronavirus in the United States. That is an increase of over 100% in just a couple of days. Ever since the 100% graduation movement began I have been looking for an example of how just by spreading the word, behaviors are changed. I found one with the coronavirus.

At first I was using the example of how Native youth help feed the elders first at a feast. Word was spread from generation to generation. As a result, having the younger feed the older became a norm.

I also used the example of how kids learn to say “please” and “thank you” early in life. A seed is planted in their brain and saying “please” and “thank you” become a norm. Even my two-year-old granddaughter is beginning to say those three magic words.

I also like using the example when a hot fishing place becomes known, word seems to spread overnight. At first, there may have been one fish house or one boat in an area and within a couple of days, there’s a village of fish houses or there are so many boats you have to be careful to avoid a collision.

As good as all of those examples are, the best example is how quickly the word spread about the coronavirus. One month ago or even less, we hadn’t heard about it. Now we question whether we should leave the house. And, everyone is washing their hands and/or using a hand sanitizer.

Word is spreading by social media, the press, word of mouth and television. We did it so quickly it was as if a seed were planted in our brain and we have been watering it daily. Now using a hand sanitizer, washing your hands for 20 seconds and staying home if you feel like you might be getting the flu or a cold have become the norm.

Churches have also changed the way they do communion. I don’t think we will see everyone drink out of the same cup in the near future. How about shaking hands? Bumping elbows seems to be catching on. All of these precautions and many more are happening because the word is getting out that all of us need to be careful. I told Kathy that she should modify her social agenda and she said, “What social agenda?” It wouldn’t be too long and we all might be saying, “What social agenda?”

So what is the point of this discussion? The whole idea behind graduating 100% of our youth has to do with just speaking the word just like we have been doing about coronavirus. By spreading the word we plant a seed and when the seed is watered over and over again, it takes hold and graduating from high school becomes the norm. It’s that simple.

I like to study high schools where graduation has become the norm. One such school is Boys Town High School in Boys Town, Neb. Boys Town helps children with behavioral, emotional and physical complications. It boasts a 100% graduation rate. Its mission statement is, “Changing the way America cares for children and families.” A major goal is to, “Empower parents to help their children who have behavioral concerns.” This is what we are trying to do with the 100% movement with two exceptions. We are also trying to empower the entire county and it doesn’t cost anything.

I hate to admit it but I think there are a lot of naysayers out there who don’t believe we can graduate 100% of our youth. I just read the recent graduation report for Minnesota and the results are not good. We have increased a little overall and dropped a bit for Native students. Our graduation rate is around 65% in Beltrami County.

Some might say that 100% isn’t working. Let’s remember that the first public high school in the United States was the Boston Latin School, which opened its doors in 1635. The oldest high school in Minnesota is St. Paul Central founded in 1866 and now has an 88% graduation rate. How many years have the public schools been trying to graduate all of its youth? How many years has the 100% movement been around? It started in June 2017.

Even though we now have over 370 supporters of the 100% graduation rate movement, the seed we are planting is not being watered regularly. If it were, our graduation rate would be significantly higher. We just can’t plant a seed and hope it will grow. We have to will it to grow. Rather than parents and teachers saying to a young person, “I hope you will graduate,” they must say, “You will graduate and we are here to help you.”

With over 370 supporters we have become too large. The challenge is to keep the seed watered on a regular basis by reminding supporters to spread the word. We are hoping to get an intern through Bemidji State who will help keep our goal in front of people. If everyone and I mean everyone, continues to remind kids they need to graduate, we can do this and it won’t take 400 years of trying. We can make graduation the norm by planting the “will graduate seed” and then watering it regularly just like we learned again how important it is to wash our hands.

Riddle: Why did the farmer use a steam roller in his field? (He wanted to grow mashed potatoes.) When we water the graduation seed regularly we will grow graduates.

100%

Thanks to the Ponemah Fitness Center and the Ponemah Elderly Nutrition Program, we now have 371 businesses and organizations that support the 100% movement. This means we have more people to water the graduation seed, which is what 100% is all about. Do your part. Remind kids to graduate and do it relentlessly. Thank you and miigwech.

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