Graves: A new reality of high school can be a successful voyage for students

An opinion column from Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves.

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Growing up in the blue house at 900 Holt Ave. in Sioux Falls, I enjoyed the benefits of being the youngest of five brothers. One of the lesser of these was a huge collection of comic books. Neither my brothers nor I bought into the superhero comics much, preferring instead the likes of Harvey Comics (Richie Rich, Casper, etc.) and the misadventures of Archie Andrews.

I still think of Archie and his pals because so much of his life, related in the comics, was about his life in high school. Archie attended a school seemingly trapped somewhere between the 1930s and 50s, very different than the one I attended. We drove no jalopies, shied from away from no bullies akin to "Big Moose," and none of our buddies constantly wore a whoopee cap. (OK, OK, I also never had two girls competing for my affections.)

But …

When I look back at the denizens of Riverdale today, I have to admit that their world in high school is far more similar to mine than mine is similar to the experience of many students today.

We had no computers in school and all classes were in-person. Though we had a few electives, even in the pretty large high school I attended, our schedules were quite lockstep. The list of required courses was far more extensive than those which involved a choice. We started class at 8:30, stayed in the single building all day, and departed at 3:30. I shared classes regularly, for all of my high school years with students from across the spectrum of class preferences every day. It created a community, a culture of students, a feeling we were all in the same boat, at least as long as the high school voyage continued.


This shared experience has been reduced dramatically in the last 10 years and there are signs that it will only continue to do so. Many lament this fact and they do have a point. A shared culture is a valuable thing and it can help bring people together in a society throughout their lives.

Yet, there are also remarkable things happening in this new reality of high school. Take, for example, the experience of MHS senior Hazel Mebius. Her current educational reality struck me recently, probably because I was so surprised she was already a senior. I remember, because her mother teaches for us, when she was born and when she began kindergarten and when she traveled through Mitchell Middle School. (This is one of the distinct advantages of a superintendent with long tenure in a school district.) But I still find myself amazed when suddenly they are completing their journey (or have already completed their journey) with us.

Even more amazing, though, is the way in which this sharp young lady has managed to fully capitalize on the broad spectrum of opportunities education in 21st century Mitchell offers. Hazel, you see, worked hard in middle school and completed several high school credits while still in middle school. She then took on a rigorous high school schedule in her undergrad years. That meant that she could explore even more challenging coursework in her junior and senior years, to the extent that they, frankly, don’t even see her this year — her senior year — at MHS because we see her instead at Mitchell Technical College where she takes all of her courses, dual enrollment, this year.

She is pursuing, you see, coursework in our MTC Geospatial Technologies Program. This undertaking is keyed to our economy’s exploding needs in the area of mapping technology and includes such studies as GPS, GIS, CAD, data collection, etc. With that incredible background from MTC in place, Hazel plans, next year, to start a major in Geographic Information Science at SDSU and to work while she is at it for a geospatial data firm which has already offered her a job while in college, and, no doubt, beyond.

No, Archie and his pals would not quite know what to make of all of this and Miss Grundy and Mr. Weatherbee would likely collapse in a swoon. But we don’t live in Riverdale anymore and young people like Hazel are building a new reality. Their reality.

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