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Nation

La Crescent High School senior Rowan Swift, the leader of Motivation Nation, is one of a dozen seniors in the group that this year hopes to promote pride in both the school and community. She's holding a sign seen in many yards in La Crescent meant to get the group's name out there and in front of a wall calendar at the school that promotes sporting and club events, as well as student birthdays.

There’s a movement started at La Crescent High School.

It’s a movement to bolster school pride; it’s a movement to give students a voice; it’s a movement to reach out to the community; it’s a movement to showcase great things about the school.

The movement is Motivation Nation.

This year, a group of a dozen or so seniors are making an outward effort to restore school spirit where some feel it’s lacked. But it doesn’t end at rallying students to Lancer sporting events, but rather, extends the excitement to all of the school’s many non-athletic clubs. The broader goal is to swell school pride not only amongst the student population, but it the wider city by connecting with businesses, parents and residents in a way that fosters support in a mutual relationship.

“Our main goal is to really just bring back school spirit and pride within the school and community both,” said Rowan Swift, Motivation Nation’s elected leader. “I really want this to be a group for us to be able to listen to the students and listen to the businesses in the community, and for us to make La Crescent High School a place that kids don’t mind going to and spending eight hours a day.”

The effort began last year when a group of then juniors participated in a Rotary Club-sponsored leadership seminar. During the one-day event, which included students from eight area high schools, attendees took part in activities that encouraged them to take positive messages back to their schools that would promote a change in environment and culture.

“The objective (of the program) is that the leadership training will then be carried back into the school,” said La Crescent Rotarian Steve Mau, who along with Bill Budd, helped facilitate the LCHS students’ participation. “These kids will now undertake some responsibility for trying to improve the culture of the school.”

From that day, the students decided to form an official group in which they could use those skills and pursue the initiatives they hoped to achieve. Thus, the Rotary leadership team, Motivation Nation, was created.

The next step was visiting West Salem High School to find out what worked in terms of school spirit and engagement, picking out specific aspects to roll out at La Crescent. Since then, the Nation has met over lunch each Wednesday when school’s in session and once a month during the summer.

“Steve is still there, too. He comes to all of our meetings and is really involved,” Swift said.

Though Mau and Budd are the conduits between the Rotary Club and the students, he said activities director Jeff Copp and guidance counselor Abby Kemp have been supporting and guiding the group’s in-school initiatives, which last year included notes to classmates wishing them well before taking the ACT and to graduating seniors wishing them luck in the future. And already this year, signs of its effort have spread around town – literally.

In the yards of many La Crescent houses are placards that read “Lancer Nation,” with the group’s name in black block lettering below. It’s void of a Lancer logo and was purposely left somewhat vague, Copp said. The idea is to get people asking what Motivation Nation is.

The group is also hoping to get the hastag “motivationation” started on social media so, if Copp or a group member has an announcement to make regarding anything sports, club or otherwise school-related, students can look for that tag to stay in the loop.

But once the school year begins on Tuesday, there are already plans to get to work on building the kind of school environment and image the students know is possible. For instance, the group hopes to hand out student surveys asking how they feel about the school’s level of pride and one thing they’d like to see happen in that regard, so that later in the year, the Nation can work to make those suggestions a reality, Swift said.

Naturally, when students think of pride, many associate it with athletics, which is a good place to promote the group and its ideals, but Swift envisions it becoming more than that, extending to groups like robotics, choir, the Gay-Straight Alliance and the Chopper Club.

“We have an awesome robotics team,” Swift said, picking that group specifically. “It’s so good.”

But their work also includes advocacy, giving a voice to student who might not otherwise want to speak up.

“It’s addressing student concerns of climate or even bullying; it can be a voice for those students, as well,” Copp said.

And from Copp’s perspective as activities – not just athletics – director, including students in all groups, from football to drama to those not involved, is his focus. But the Nation’s focus isn’t just about the environment inside the school, but also how it can work with the community to build up the image and create a sense of pride.

That might include making the physical building more welcoming, Copp said, which in that case means partnering with the Lancer Entrance Project group on work it’s doing on the east side entrances. It could also be as simple as using local vendors – the signs were made by Thorson Graphics – and promoting the businesses in La Crescent to students and new staff members in the school.

“Outside the building, it’s connecting with businesses – what their needs are and what ours are, and keeping those lines of communication open,” Copp said. “When those needs meet, those partnerships are what the Nation is, and anytime our needs meet, we need to be talking.”

When positive conversations are had, goodwill builds, he said, and that’s nothing but good for the community.

“When it comes time to think big and we’re doing a big project or something like that, we have some goodwill,” said Copp, who is also the assistant principal in the 5-12 building.

At the end of the day, he said the club is a reflection of what it wants the community to be.

“This is a small town. It’s safe, it’s welcoming, it’s Minnesota nice,” Copp said. “That’s essentially what this group is. It’s to bring out the best of what our school is and make it visible.”

Swift feels La Crescent is a good place to establish a group like Motivation Nation for those very reasons.

“I can walk outside and if it’s a nice day and people are walking their dogs, I can say hi and talk to these people, or I can go to any business and recognize someone there,” she said. “I think La Crescent is a really open community, just in general. It’s a really positive place, and I think it’s a really good idea to help students realize that it doesn’t have to be just school when you’re in school. You can branch out and talk to other people.

“We’re in a really good position right now to make La Crescent and make this school a really positive place,” she added. “I feel like we can get to a point where we can be as good as everyone wants us to be and as good as people feel like we can be.”

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