Students Stop Texting, Save Town

Hey Readers! Here’s a feel-good story:  Students from grade school on up are filling sandbags at a fantastic clip in order to save the town of Fargo, N.D., from flooding. According to A.P. writer James MacPherson:

Thousands of volunteers are lending a hand this week to fill and stack sandbags to place along the river and near endangered homes as Fargo faces the threat of a severe flood after the river’s expected crest Sunday. But the heart of that volunteer corps are the city’s youngest citizens.

It’s a job that elsewhere might be reserved for emergency workers or at least, their parents. But here, students can be excused from class with their parents’ permission and join the hundreds of adults, local workers and others who are taking on the task of filling 1 million sandbags to hold back the impending floodwaters.

“They pretty much have saved our community,” said David Stark, 62, who worked beside hundreds of student volunteers Tuesday. One of the few seniors to join the effort, he had to take a break after hurting his hand and was in awe of the students’ dedication.

Now, I know that many parents are out there thinking (as am I), “Of COURSE they’re volunteering! They get to skip school! My kids would volunteer to sponge-bathe scorpions if it meant a day off school.” But what’s cool is that once those kids are actively doing something big and meaningful, they even stop TEXTING. Yes, Mr. MacPherson interviewed at least one gal who said that normally she’s on her cell all the time but, “Texting would be hard to do [while] sandbagging.” (And besides, she added: all her friends were right there anyway.)

Moral of story?  Mix kids back into the real world of community/responsibility/adulthood and they rise to the occasion. And, just possibly, your phone bills recede. — Lenore

21 Responses

  1. And nobody is saying that loading sand bags is too dangerous! How great for everyone. And what a great feeling all will have to work together.

  2. You know what’s outstanding about that little article? “Sandbagging” can also mean: To downplay or misrepresent one’s ability in order to deceive someone, especially in gambling ( It seems to me that kids are getting “sandbagged” by many adults out there who try to convince them that they can’t do XYZ or aren’t ready for ABC responsibility. But a bunch of sandbagging kids are proving them wrong. Brilliant! I love the irony.

  3. I am proud to be the parent of one of those kids. My 15-year-old daughter (all of 117 lbs.) has spent the last two days sandbagging, and I couldn’t be more proud!

  4. That’s just wonderful. Give kids a chance to help with something important, and they can do it.

  5. This doesn’t surprise me at all. Kids to day are MORE connected to each other and the world not less. My elementary aged mostly title I students talk regularly about helping out. These kids that others would write off as a bunch of gang banger want a bees what to help.

    1. They asked if we could have a penny challenge to raise money for Haiti.

    2. Fill a conference room at school with food donations – but insisted on doing it in the Spring because the “food bank runs out off food when everyone forgets about it after the holidays” They know this because they have used the food bank.

    3. Come to school early to weed the garden.

    4. Volunteered to SLEEP at the school to prevent burglaries. (Obviously this offer was not accepted instead we suggested they call 911 if they see suspicious activty. The COPS are camping out in our school this week (spring break) trying to catch the people breaking in).

    5. Have called 911 to report suspicious activity around the school risking the ire of the real Gang Bangers – because they are sick of their school being broken into. (7 times since we got out of school last year)

    6. Planned at school to go help Mrs So and So get her laundry done. Found out Mrs. So and So is an older lady with physical difficulties who is raising very young grandchildren. So these 4th grade kids wanted to help her out.

    7. Pestered their parents to pester TPTB in the district about replacing the stolen items. Because our parents finally spoke up we are getting an alarm system and the stolen items are being replaced by the district. Before the parents spoke up we were told it doesn’t reach the deductible so we can’t replace them. The Parents told our principal they spoke up because the kids begged them to, and teachers told them that pressure from parents was the only option we had. These are people that really try to avoid coming to the attention of the authorities just out of fear of those in power. Shows that youth involvement is increasing.

  6. Awesome, Stephanie! Congrats to your daughter.

    When I was a kid, don’t you know we helped out whenever we built a new church (yeah, happened more than once). There we were, in line with the adults, passing bricks down the line. We fetched water in buckets to help make concrete, even helped plant flowers and trees. People might think it’s child labor now, but back then, it was just normal. You did what the big folks did – naturally.

  7. I love all the comments so far. Thanks so much for sharing the best stuff I’ve read all day.

  8. There are far worse things to learn than that when it’s between school and saving the world — or even a town — sometimes the world can come first. Good for those kids!

  9. DOH! That should have been a congrats to Beth… not that you aren’t special, Stephanie. 😀

  10. Wow. I love it. Just think how great the kids are going to feel knowing how much they’ve helped. I think those are the sorts of memories that really stay with a person for a long time—and that really help to form a consious, caring person.

    Thanks for sharing!


  11. Not to take anything away from Fargo, but I’m kind of wondering about the idea that other places, they would reserve the job for adults.

    Really? If the only choice was between letting the kids help, and the town being flooded, they still wouldn’t let the kids help in some other places? I find that hard to believe. People in other places may be less inclined to let kids help, but if the choice is between that and disaster for the town, I find it hard to believe that they wouldn’t allow it.

    But it’s a great story!

  12. I love that the kids are volunteering and doing some good in their community. But I couldn’t help but notice that these were grade school students….texting? Really? Am I the only one that has a huge fit whenever I see a 10 year old leaving school, furiously tapping away on the keyboard of her cell phone? I didn’t have a cell phone until I was old enough to get a job and pay for it myself! Oy…..maybe I’m just getting crabby in my old age. 🙂

    But back to the topic of the story: yes, it’s fantastic that not only are these kids helping their community, they’re performing real work and learning to cooperate with others in order to achieve a goal. That is unfortunately a rarity these days. Good job, Fargo!

  13. If it makes any difference, grade school in some places goes up to 8th grade, which makes the older kids in this bunch 13 or 14. Not that I’m thrilled at kids compulsively texting at that age either, but it’s a bit easier to swallow than 10 year olds.

  14. I have no problem with elementary aged students having cell phones. For some of the families at my school, it is less expensive to cell phones than land lines.

    About 90% of my kids are latchkey kids. If there isn’t a land line then they need a cell to call for help or just call their parents to say they are home and doing their homework.

    My students are supposed to have cell phones on campus. As long as I never see or hear them I turn a blind eye to the phones I know they have in their bags. Usually they share phones with the oldest from each school having a phone. Makes sense because they get out at different times.

    *My apartment kids carry their most important belongings in their backpacks at all times because of frequent break ins in the apartments. I also have kids that have important belongings in their bag to keep some adult in their house from pawning the kids stuff. (While keeping the adults toys).

  15. The article mentions grade-school kids, but I think the youngest organized help was 6th graders.

    As far as the cell-phones… I don’t like the idea of young kids having them just because then there is no safe-haven from bullying.

    But on the other hand, if my kids are going to be free-range, I’d at least like them to have the ability to call for help.

  16. I have a very vivid memory of driving a John Deere 1520 (about twice the size of the oversized-lawnmower Kubota we use at our community garden) at flank speed in 8th gear (approximately 16 miles an hour) with a disc plow hanging off the three-point hitch through my hometown from my family’s farm on the north side of town to the park on the south city limit so I could plow firebreaks through the fields downwind of the park when a bad wind from the south was pushing a major wildfire. Bad drought that summer – we were feeding hay in July because the pastures were brown, and if everyone (including kids) hadn’t pitched in, my hometown would have burned. And when I got off the tractor after six hours of breathing smoke, ash and dust, one of the grownups tossed me a beer, because I had done a man’s work that day. I was 14.

  17. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was old enough to have a job and pay for it myself either–but maybe that’s because they simply didn’t exist in wide use then. We have no land line, so I guess I will have to get my kid a cell when she is of age to stay home alone for an hour. And with these unlimited family plans these days, it isn’t like texting and calling costs any more per message or minute. So I think I have recended my my kids will never have a cell!! I never thought I would let my 6 year old have her own computer before I had kids – but I also never imagined I’d be able to buy one for $70 with softwAre to teach her to read and add either. Times change.

    I will be more impressed by kids volunteering when they choose to do it in their own free time AND they are not required to do it for school credit. Few fit that category – and those are the ones I admire.

  18. But I think it’s good that the town encouraged the kids to do this because doing useful productive work build self respect.

  19. Jim:

    As a farm kid myself, I can relate to your story. I remember being told to “Go fetch the truck!” when my dad and uncle were busy working. The truck was a ’60s era, 3-on-the-tree farm truck. I must have stalled it out a dozen times, but I figured it out. Soon I was driving it a few miles down the road to take them lunch in the field, or even further to the seed store (try to imagine a 13 year old today pulling up to a store in an old truck, getting out, and buying (well, charging to our account) dangerous chemicals and chewing tobacco).

    Fast forward 3 or 4 years to driver’s education. Myself and two other farm kids in the car with the instructor. After the first day, he just sat back and gave us a destination. Probably the easiest summer job the man ever had.

  20. I grew up on a farm in the Fargo area and can tell you that this is pretty normal behavior for kids growing up in this area. My siblings and I have all been driving since we could see over the steering wheel. We’d start by sitting on our dad’s lap, and then when we were old enough to reach the petals, we’d be able to drive on our own. And, once we could keep the tractors in a straight line we were sent to the field and were often there for hours at a time before our dad would check-up on us. We’d eventually work our way up to driving farm trucks on the road between fields and dropping our dad off at different fields and taking the pick-up home. We’ve always been taught that we are capable people of completing tasks on our own. Whether that task is helping out on the farm or helping our community, it was our responsibility to do so.

    While kids that live in town in our area probably didn’t have quite the same experience, it was very similar. Kids have to be home by dark, and the parents need to know where they can find them…and that’s usually the ground rules. We have always been encouraged to help our neighbors and community, whether or not we’d be “rewarded” by getting to skip school. Many of the kids discussed in this article were also helping on the weekends.

    So, this is just a long way of saying that in that area, it is very much a community and everyone helps each other, both kids and adults.

  21. I love that the kids are pitching in and going back to good old fun!

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