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COLUMNIST: Optimistic about the future caretakers of the community

Each year, our students have opportunity to participate in a "Pay it Forward" day, which is nothing more and nothing less than applied citizenship: doing good things because they are good people. They design this day themselves. It is not adult-driven.

This year, realizing the emergency situation in the Red River Valley, our students asked to move their Pay it Forward day up a few months so they could sandbag in the F-M area. They left on Thursday, having organized funding, buses, and 380 sets of helping hands. The photos taken by Laura Moe tell the story in ways words never could.

On Friday, I received this email: "Greeting, Ms. Uselman: Please accept my heartfelt thanks for allowing your district's students to assist in the Red River Valley flood battle of 2009. I was a volunteer from Barnesville and I had the unique experience of working with your high school students and accompanying chaperones as they descended on Oxbow, ND on Thursday, March, 26, 2009. They were energetic, positive and hard working. It fires me up to work with young people whose great work ethic and positive nature are alive and well! Congratulations to you, your awesome staff and the parents of these young adults. Be proud! Sincerely, Todd T."

I need to thank parents, Bauck Busing, and the staff at our schools for working through numerous details to make this trip happen. There is no state test that can measure the kind of learning and teamwork it took to pull off this Pay it Forward day.

I can't imagine - cannot imagine - what an emotional and exhausting battle the people of the Valley are going through. But I do feel so good about our kids and our adults and what they brought to the fight at Oxbow. The next generation models what is seen, not what is told, and when our students engage with adults in tackling tough- even seemingly insurmountable issues - they learn responsibility and confidence to do so themselves when they are the caretakers of the community.