By Jim Nowlan
Tim Colgan and Randy Yedinak (successful prosecuting attorney) were among those inducted this past Saturday into the first class of the Stark County High School Hall of Fame, for their significant contributions to society.
I was at the event as well, yet had to duck out early in order to introduce musicians for an event I was hosting at the same time at the News Room Bistro. Still, I learned about important sacrifices that I never knew about the ever-modest Tim Colgan, of Wyoming.
Tim was a combat medic in the midst of the hottest fighting of the Viet Nam Conflict, where Tim earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor.
Those of us who, like me, commanded a desk or had other non-combat roles during that war tend to look up with deep respect, even awe, to the combat veterans of that “conflict.”
And learning about such achievements is one important reason we make such awards to fellows like Tim and Randy, who are graduates of little ol’ Stark County High and its predecessor schools in LaFayette, Wyoming and Toulon.
There are many more success stories from our high school, like those of Tim and Randy, and they can serve as inspiration to our present students. “If those guys (and ladies) can do it, then so can I.”
This brings to mind that elite colleges are looking for top students from rural high schools. The Ivy League, Stanford, and other Top Ten colleges realize they are missing something by not having more students from small schools. Our schools may lack all the Advanced Placement courses and all the coaching that top suburban high schools provide their students, so as to propel them to the very top schools.
But our students have richer, more diverse experiences than do those in the wealthy suburban schools. Students at small rural schools are a mix of farm and town, of low-income students as well as those from middle-class backgrounds.
For whatever reasons, there have been multiple stories recently in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times about how Stanford, the hardest college to get into in all the nation, is recruiting graduates from rural community college (which would have been unheard of a few years ago), and other Top Ten colleges are beating the bushes in rural America’s high schools for top graduates.
Rachel Wilson, daughter of Mark and Cristin, of a farm near Toulon, is a great example. A top graduate four years ago from Stark 100 was accepted by Washington University in St. Louis, one of those top ten universities.
And now she will be graduating with top honors, ahead of most of her “Wash U” classmates from the wealthy suburbs, Korea and China.
So, grandparents and parents, if your youngster is doing really, really well in school, don’t be afraid to shoot for the top. It’s worth a try—and appreciate that most of these schools are so wealthy they will offer free rides to students they want.
While I’m on the topic of schools, the surest way to draw young families to small towns like ours, and thus keep our towns alive, is to offer rally top drawer schools.
Our schools try hard—certainly the faculty does—and does a good job with limited resources. Our schools are as good as the schools down the highway from us, but that is no longer good enough for young families that know their youngsters will be competing for jobs with the best from Asia and Europe, not those students just down the road.
So, this is the challenge for new Stark 100 superintendent Nick Sutton and our school board. Retiring school Supt. Jerry Klooster and his board have put the district on a sound financial footing. Now we need to springboard from that platform to the next level.
Last week, I inadvertently omitted several county businesses that contributed to the recent suicide prevention training, which richly benefited more than 20 local first responders and other good citizens.
These contributors include AgView FS, Camp Grove State Bank, State Bank of Speer as well as the Henry County Mental Health Task Force.
This past week I hosted my fiancée Sara Ivey for her first ever visit to Stark County. Sara has lived in “Big D” Dallas for the past 30+ years. In her work, she travels the world—I really mean all around the globe—so frequently that she has almost one million frequent flyer miles on American Airlines! Thus, Sara wants to take me, First Class, anywhere in the world I want to go. Any suggestions from readers?
And Sara really loved Toulon and Stark County. And I know she is being sincere in saying so.
“The people I met are so genuine, unaffected, down to earth—and fun,” she gushed to me.
We did Connie’s Country Kitchen, One Eleven and the 7th Street Boutique, the building and staff where I work, Cerno’s, in nearby Kewanee, and more. (Sara made me promise we’ll get to The Highlands in Bradford, another favorite of mine, on her next trip here, in a couple of weeks.)
Thanks for being so welcoming, Stark County.