Lancer Strong's goals look beyond the upcoming November operating levy.
On a mission to help build the La Crescent community through a strong La Crescent-Hokah School District-base, the organization banded together after attending the Blandin Community Leadership Program in January.
“Part of our discussion was what makes a healthy community? What are the different components that are needed to make both the La Crescent and Hokah community strong and vibrant?” said Lancer Strong member Teresa O’Donnell- Ebner.
Their answer was clear: a strong public school system.
The La Crescent- Hokah School Board also agrees; the November special election official language for the $850 per pupil operating levy referendum question was set at its August meeting.
Lancer Strong members Jen Conroy and O’Donnell-Ebner attended the meeting to push for clarity of a unified levy message by the school board.
Last November, the board tried to pass an operating levy referendum that would have raised the current levy amount to $626.72 per student – an increase of about $400. The levy failed and left the district making around $300,000 worth of cuts.
Lancer Strong has acknowledged that there was community confusion over the 2016 operating levy’s language and purpose.
Although the group is working to educate community members about the upcoming levy, as well as involve others with community and school events, it is working along parallel lines with the school rather than partnering together.
"The distinction is really important because the school can only provide factual information and can not ask people to vote for the levy," O'Donnell-Ebner said.
Grand Rapids, Minn. - based Blandin—which organizes a retreat for leaders of the community every three years—offers a week of leadership workshops that work to bring rural Minnesota communities together.
Those who met at Blandin and created Lancer Strong reflect the community as there are members that have children in the district, those whose children that have already gone through the school system and those who want children someday.
“One of the things we realized at Blandin was that the group of us, all 23 of us, had strong feelings about supporting the school,” O’Donnell-Ebner said. “When the levy failed we were shocked so it was nice to talk about it.”
It was at Blandin that the subgroup created the Lancer Strong slogan: Strong Schools--Strong Communities.
Lancer Strong has met three times since Blandin, coming together more fiercely during the summer before the upcoming levy.
“To show how the community is strong, we’ve used the Facebook page to show strong community events like National Night Out,” Conroy said. “Another initiative that we’ve taken is a t-shirt supported by local businesses.”
The Lancer Strong community has found support by local businesses thanks to the group’s informational approach.
“It’s been a good conversation,” said Lancer Strong member and Sports Hub co-owner Travis Minegar. “We’ve gotten support because of our community minded message. We’re not saying vote yes. We’re saying learn about the levy.”
Another discussion has been outreach. Although the group has gotten a positive response from their photo sharing on Facebook, the group likes to use a face-to-face method as well.
“As we’re getting started, we are starting to create email lists and outreach at different events. We also think that conversations are really the right way to go,” O’Donnell-Ebner said.
Although the group is new, it picks up where the 300 for 300 campaign—another community-based school group that operated at the beginning of the year—left off.
“We aren’t trying to recreate the wheel,” Minegar said. “They had a lot of successful events at local businesses. A lot of our volunteers are the same.”
Undoubtedly committed to the community, Lancer Strong wants community members to take it upon themselves to learn and talk about the upcoming levy.
“We want to benefit the community. That’s our goal,” Conroy said. “It’s Lancer strong.”