You can always come home

I was honored to be the speaker for the Class of 2018’s graduation ceremony. Some of the students were in my last fifth-grade literature class when I retired, so the faces were familiar.

Garrett Swain introduced me. Garrett designed the 50th anniversary logo for the Mahanay Tower, which is quite an accomplishment for a high school student.

I decided that my message would be of the importance of community and community service. These two aspects give me a sense of “home.”

These seniors have gained a lot of skills at school, not all from a textbook, project or computer program, but more from collaboration. They’ve been listening, discussing, planning, creating and thinking.

I’m proud that our school recognizes differences in learning for our students and has many environments for each to flourish. This will benefit them in a variety of careers.  

Have you noticed how these students have used their skills in service to the community?  

The murals on several buildings, raking leaves, singing the national anthem or playing their instruments at events, using their muscle power to haul rubbish or chairs are just a few.

I appreciate the school staff recognizing the importance of getting out of the classroom to make a difference. Serving the community is what makes a place “home.”

People in our community care about the future: the building owners and city working on the storefronts, many volunteers are preparing for RAGBRAI, the expansion of the Mahanay Tower to 47 bells, creating displays of the impact of sports in the Masonic window, leading students in organizations like 4-H, FFA, Scouts and others, the recent successful school bond referendum with 90-plus people collaborating for the future of our students and our local industries.

Which brought me to the big message for the graduates.  

Our community is so proud of you, and we invite you to be an important part of the growth here.

We are a county of entrepreneurs with businesses like American Athletic, Power Lift, Bauer Built, Scranton Manufacturing, ShineOn designs, The Rhythm Room, Bett & Bev’s and many more born from a passion and an idea.  

Small-town kids can have big ideas. And big ideas can happen in small towns.

I gave one example of Chris Deal, who can continue his engineering career working from home and still be involved in the family orchard. He built a house like many of the students have with Mr. Morman this year, and now he is involved with bringing Pillar Technology to town.

Other alums have returned and are making a major impact on the community.

Newcomers to the community saw the opportunities for their careers, business or as a great place to raise their families are choosing to move here. I feel lucky to be able to work with them.

I encouraged the graduates to set goals and pursue their dreams. But remember that at any time, right now, or in the future, you are invited to bring your ideas, bring your family, bring your love for the community back and grow here.

I asked Jean Feldmann to design a card with song titles about “home” on the front with, “You are always welcome here.”

It was easy for me to have business people from around the county to take time to sign each individual card. I wrote a message of congratulations and best wishes along with reminding them to “chase your dreams, but always know the road that can lead you home.”  

Perhaps this could become a graduation tradition.

We would be fortunate to have these great young people be a part of the growth of Greene County for the next generation.

Peg Raney is program director of Jefferson Matters: Main Street.

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Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161