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Leaving a Trace

posted Oct 3, 2017, 12:57 PM by Brenda Williams
A couple of years ago, when planning a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), I read about the concept of Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace is a principle of interacting with nature that seeks to minimize the impact of humans on the environment of natural areas. The goal would be that no one would ever know you had been there. No trail. No evidence of your impact. Nothing.

I can’t imagine a worse way to experience high school than Leave No Trace. While this ideal is great for nature, it’s the sign of doom for a student in school.

When I think of the high school experience, I think most about the impact of this experience on the lives of our students. For many people, high school was an experience unlike any other that carries with it lasting memories and compels them to return 10, 20, even 50 years later to re-live those cherished moments. We buy class rings, letterman’s jackets, yearbooks, take photos, make scrapbooks, and other lasting mementos that remind us of the experience we shared with our classmates in the halls of a building we proudly called our high school. Many a past Patriot can recall the words of the school song, remember the winning basket of the biggest game in the old gym, or retell stories of mischief under the nose of a teacher. The impact of the high school years is felt long after students graduate. Being a graduate of Pequot Lakes High is a badge of honor carried for a lifetime.

The trace, the evidence of impact, goes beyond the symbolic experience of belonging to a place. It is also felt in the impact of the adults on students. Teachers whose legacy of professional practice is retold for decades after students were in their classroom. Secretaries, cooks, custodians, and bus drivers who took the time to make a meaningful impact on the life of kids. Principals who maintained a standard of excellence that held kids accountable. People who noticed when your day was tough or when you needed a boost. People who you wondered if they would ever retire, but you secretly hoped they would wait until your own kids were in high school. This trace of the high school experience is felt for a lifetime. Without the people, high school is just a building. The people made it an experience.

A school and community is also impacted by those who it serves. Every graduate leaves a little trace of themselves. This legacy is a reputation forged by events that have shown our character, our strength, our credibility, the evidence to others of who we are and what we stand for. Young men and women of character learn how to lead with confidence, learn to shoulder a burden, learn to think deeply, learn empathy, and skills that will guide them in life. What they leave behind is of far greater value. They leave a legacy of what it means to have a diploma from Pequot Lakes High School.

Pequot Lakes Schools have benefited from the efforts of our community and former graduates. Donations of materials and equipment to our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Technology Ed programs have enabled our students to learn skills for the workplace that prepare them for trades before they graduate. Support by local resorts for the Pro-Start program has provided new equipment and curriculums in our Family and Consumer Science program that provides students with real-world culinary skills that can fast-track them into careers. Support from local businesses has created internship experiences for six students that enable them to gain skills and training for careers they intend to pursue once they graduate. Donations to the Patriot Foundation and other funds have provided students with scholarships to enable them to pursue more education. Donations of time have put professionals in our classrooms to share their work experience so our students have an awareness of potential careers. Supportive voices have spread the news of the good work our students do every day and encouraged a friend or neighbor to attend school events or become active in organizations that support our school. The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and Patriot Activities Club (PAC) have supported our students both during the school day and beyond in opportunities that give kids an exposure to activities that stretch their world. Lifelong Patriots like Bob Uppgaard, Wayne “Wheaties” Wallin, and others have made it their legacy to support PLHS students through service of time and expertise. Community organizations and nonprofits have funded building updates, student programming, and travel expenses for students to attend activities that teach leadership and citizenship skills. And the list goes on.

These are the legacy of the Patriots. This the evidence that schools have a lasting impact on students, that a successful school is a result of the efforts of people inside and outside the building. That the lasting impact of this experience is felt for a lifetime. That school is more than test scores and grades. We all leave a trace, evidence of our having been there, and having made a difference. Whether you are a community member, a parent, or a student, what is your trace, your legacy of being a Pequot Lakes Patriot?

-- Aaron Nelson, High School Principal