If you ask a Pelican Rapids High School Class of 2017 graduate; they’ll probably give it to you straight: Ain’t no big deal…

Extended family and friends of PRHS Class of 2017 graduate Faisa Ismail Ali gathered for photos and fellowship following the May 26 commencement ceremony.
Graduation and prom coverage, with a multi-cultural thrust, earned the Pelican Rapids Press a first place honor in the Minnesota Newspaper Contest -which were announced Jan. 25.

The time may be coming, when we no longer describe the Pelican Rapids schools as “diverse”–ethnically, religiously, culturally or racially.

Based on the Class of 2017 commencement ceremony, maybe the time is now.

Fifty two students walked the stage with smiles, received their diplomas, shook hands; and stepped off the stage to face their future. It didn’t seem to matter much–to anybody–what color they were; or what church they attended; or what they ate for dinner.

Nearly half of the graduating class would meet the definition of being ethnically “different,” at least by the standards of the Norwegian Lutherans who settled the territory more than a century ago.

Martinez, Franco, Gonzalez, Hashi, Thi Le, Moreno Omar, Odawa, Ramirez, Saba, Said, Torres, Lopez––along with Hanson, Johnson and Peterson–these were the names on the class list.

Half of them had stars printed by their names, meaning they were honor students.

Most of them received at least some kind of scholarship to continue their education in college or vocational school.

Most of them were involved in extra curricular activities of one form or another.

Most of them behaved during their tenure at Pelican Rapids High School.

Some of them didn’t. A few of them ended up in the principal’s office. Some of them, a few times. Some of them weren’t honor students. A few of them probably needed to double check their diplomas–to make sure they were signed and official.

A few of them probably found themselves in the back seat of a Pelican Rapids city cop car, somewhere along the line. A couple of them may already have a misdemeanor on their record.

Some without any infractions of any kind may find themselves in a county court room, standing before a judge somewhere; some time in the future.

Some of them, some time in the future, will be nurses, engineers, doctors, artists, accountants, plumbers, mechanics, factory workers and teachers.

Sound familiar?…Like the Pelican Rapids High School Class of 1937?…or Class of 1957?…or ‘67?…or ‘87?… So…what’s the big deal with “diversity?”

Don’t ask an adult that question.

Ask a young adult from the Pelican Rapids graduating class of 2017.

Most of them will probably respond with a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders…

…No big deal…


Editor’s note: The Pelican Rapids Press was awarded first place in the “Social Issues” feature story category, at the Minnesota Newspaper Association convention last weekend.

The entry included a column about ethnic diversity, published after the Pelican Rapids High School Class of 2017 graduation ceremony. That piece is republished here.

The entry also includes a photo feature, with pictures by contributor Deb Sjostrom, profiling the Pelican school’s first alternative, multi-cultural prom.