Talking with leaders

Jacob Opatz (left) talks with Fergus Falls High School Assistant Principal Shane Thielke (left to right), Fergus Falls School Board member Matt Lemke and Fergus Falls High School Principal Dean Monke Tuesday after his group’s presentation. The college writing class prepared projects that tackled a number of issues in Fergus Falls community and in the school district.


Fergus Falls city staff members, business leaders, Fergus Falls School Board and school staff, and many others listened to several committees present proposals for different issues that were affecting the city and the school district. But this wasn’t some private consulting firm or think tank, it was students in Mindy Christianson’s college writing class at Kennedy Secondary School. 

From Monday through Wednesday, 14 groups presented PowerPoints on topics including potholes, empty buildings in Fergus Falls, the use of key cards at Kennedy Secondary School and more. As a part of their final project, the students were asked to brainstorm a list of issues that they see in the community or the school. They would then form committees around those issues and begin researching them including interviewing those involved tackling the current problem. The group must come up with three possible solutions to the problem, propose a solution, present the information and write an essay on their findings.

Christianson stated that the projects take about nine weeks, start to finish, while the students complete a number of other assignments. “They had about two weeks of dedicated time toward the project before their presentations,” Christianson added.

The project has been going on for about five years as English teacher Laurie Roder brought the idea back from a conference. Christianson and Roder have tweaked it to fit their classes and plan on continuing it for the next several years. Roder also had a number of projects from her class.

While the projects are a requirement for the class, Christianson believes that they provide more for the students than just a completed assignment.

“The students practice so many important skills while working on their community action projects,” Christianson said. “They interview and survey people, find primary and secondary research, work as a small group on a specific task, speak publicly to an intimidating audience and advocate for action, and so much more. It also helps them make connections and network with community leaders. It’s not easy, but they also don’t complain because they choose topics they care about. I hope it inspires them to be future community leaders and advocate for positive change.”

But those aren’t the only ones receiving the benefit of these projects. The area leaders that came to the presentations got a different perspective from a young community member.

“Their projects also benefit the leaders who come listen, as it hopefully gives them new ideas or at least the chance to hear from young adults,” Christianson said.


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