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Graves: With education, Mitchell is in an incredibly enviable position

Our local Chamber of Commerce recognized this recently when it called in the leaders of some of our educational institutions.

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Recently, a friend of mine from the neighborhood where we grew up sent me, and I’m sure a bazillion other people from Sioux Falls, the following request: “Name a business that has closed from your younger years.” I never answer things like that but I will admit I was interested to see what other people remember.

It was a slog down memory lane. Though it took a great deal of scrolling, someone finally did recall the business that instantly came to mind for me: Hamburger Inn. It was a tiny establishment in downtown Sioux Falls, so narrow in its physical dimensions that it was made up entirely of a counter that extended from the front to the back of the restaurant with a man flipping burgers immediately opposite.

I swear I could have reached over and plucked a hamburger patty from the grill. The wonder is I didn’t. The burgers were good enough, though at age 10, I was hardly a gourmand. They resembled, if memory serves and it probably doesn’t, the sliders you can still get at White Castle.

And I loved them.

Frankly, though, the food was irrelevant. I loved them because my big brother, Tom, took me to Hamburger Inn on a pretty regular basis. Eleven years my senior, he was grown-up, smart, witty and yet still enjoyed hanging out with his youngest brother. He made me feel like I mattered. He still does.

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Hamburger Inn, as I said, is closed now, unless I missed the memo. The fact that it is closed must mean it was a wonderful place to eat that too few people knew about, one of those "best kept secrets." Apparently too best kept. If more people had been less tongue-tied, I’d be able to belly up to the lunch counter on my next visit.

Best kept secrets can be like that. The locals know all about it but because they don’t spread the word, it is not as successful as it might otherwise be.

Our local Chamber of Commerce recognized this recently when it called in the leaders of some of our educational institutions. Mitchell is in an incredibly enviable position educationally. Our public schools are highly successful, with our graduates enjoying access to and achievement in every prospect of adult life, with at least some of the credit going to our schools. We also have two fine private, accredited schools in our midst, giving parents that delightful aspect of a choice in their decisions about the education of their little ones.

But those are just the beginning.

Even more remarkable is the existence of two post-secondary schools in a community of just 15,000 people. Mitchell Technical College, genuinely and formally recognized as one of the very best in the nation, offers the mastery of technical skills in dozens of fields, all of which result in close to 100% placement in their field (or further study) and starting, mid-career, and end-career compensation levels that would bring a smile to graduates of any university. And do bring a smile even to the young man clinging to the top of an electrical pole during a January ice storm.

Looking more for the liberal arts, a shot at educating the next generation of Americans, or taking your entrepreneurial skills to the next level? Dakota Wesleyan University has you covered is using its size and the innovative mindset of its people to flexibly maneuver toward meeting the needs of, not just students, but also the increasingly future-shocked demands of the modern economy.

Meanwhile, both MTC and DWU have met the challenge of facility development, with both institutions having built what look very much like all new campi. And both are still building. One of the other things they are building is relationships between their post-secondary partner in Mitchell such that enrolling in one does not preclude opportunities in the other. A not insignificant number of students in each is continuing their education through the other.

In Mitchell, educationally, the sky’s the limit. Hopefully, the Chamber’s latest efforts in this regard will mean our best kept secret is a secret no more.

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