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Osakis Voices: Students seek ideas with survey

This past fall, Brad Hoffarth, sixth-grade teacher and activities director at Osakis High School, approached me wondering if there was any particular community project his "Close Up" students could help with.

The "Close Up" program has been in existence since 1971, informing, inspiring and empowering students to exercise the rights and accept the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy. Former Osakis High School Teacher, Chris Stroup, started Osakis in the program some years back, and Mr. Hoffarth has helped carry the mission forward of engaging students in the democratic process with the outcome being a trip to Washington D.C., where a group of students experience a week in our Nation's Capital.

While the students must spend much of the year fundraising to cover much of the cost of the trip, they were particularly interested in being engaged in the democratic process in our community. With it being over 10 years since the City of Osakis underwent a Comprehensive Plan, I suggested that a community survey could be useful to inform the visioning process in a future Comprehensive Planning effort.

The group of students came up with a survey designed to understand the things people like about the community, the things people would like to improve in the community, and the potential areas for growth and new amenities. They presented their survey to the City of Osakis Planning and Zoning Commission, and eventually the Osakis City Council. With their feedback, the students put the finishing touches on the survey.

The survey will be available at City Hall in hard copy form, as well as digitally available at a URL that will be posted on the upcoming months' water and sewer bills, as well as pushed out on various City of Osakis and Osakis Public School social media sites. The students will compile the results and present the information to the Osakis City Council. Please, provide good feedback, as it is the hope that this valuable information will instruct future endeavors to improve and strengthen our community.

It is inspiring to see students think and act civic-minded, hopefully strengthening the connection they have with the community of Osakis long after they graduate and move on to bigger and better things. Rural communities, like Osakis, struggle to retain the wonderful talent they grow, and through projects like these, motivated by the educators in our community reaching out and engaging the citizens, we can engage the great people we grow to carry our community into new generations. I would like to personally thank Mr. Hoffarth and the "Close Up" seniors on their efforts to take the classroom out to the community and provide our community a great service.

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Osakis Voices is a rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.

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